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Hellbent

Still pining for the simpler times

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I have some thoughts about doom. And they don't seem to change over time. That makes me think their may be something to them. That, and how much popularity E1 remakes have. I don't think this is simply due to nostalgia. I still believe there are some basic tenets to original doom maps that make them endure so well. I love the small scale of episode 1. It's soo... cozy; so intimate, and so full of interesting things happening on screen like rising bridges, fireballs hurled through a window from a not-so-distant pillar, and monsters rapidly inundating the space and trying to chew your face off. I can't help still feel that Doom's engine has always and continues to be best suited for this type of level design.

 

In olden times, E1 maps were forced to be small and simple, so that people with 386 SX33 machines could play them. As I recall from Masters of Doom, the developers were even then pining for more design space to fulfill their grandiose visions and ambitions. But it's my belief that the limitation on design space was a hidden blessing to the developers; that it's a major reason for Doom's enduring charm and replayability. Today that limitation no longer exists, so giant "magnum opus" maps are all the rage, great spectacles of ornate leviathinism; wondrous worlds to get lost in. But I still pine for the the small, simple rooms, with meaningful/interesting connections to other rooms/areas, and with neat/atmospheric secrets. And besides, there is some evidence that creativity increases when a limitation is placed on the creator (unrelated to E1, the success of 10sectors project I think is a good testament to this).

 

Awhile back I seeded a project that would later become known as DTWID. At the time it was an interesting concept and today I still think it is. But, of course, doing a "reboot" to this project would be folly (I can't succinctly say why, it just would be, even if Romero's recent Doom resurgence is the impetus for me making this post). However... I still think there is space in the doom community for a new project adhering to some basic tenets that were true for DTWID. Basically, the goals of the project would be:

 

1. Make a new, stand-alone 9 level episode with its own look and feel

2. Borrow design principles from the original Doom levels as a guide toward good, "classic" design.

3. Make levels in size and complexity similar to those in Knee Deep in the Dead.

4. Create a strong sense of place and atmosphere using a limited number of vertices and lines. 

5. Avoid repetition in design and gameplay.

 

Here are some design principles I vaguely remember John Romero sharing in the DTWID thread while we were working on that project.

  • The importance of contrast. Doom is of course an action packed game. But not every room need have monsters in it. The contrast between monster filled rooms and quiet, moody/dark/atmospheric rooms makes for a more interesting map and a more immersive gaming experience. Contrast can be applied in many other ways, too, such as lighting, or a sudden switch from monster types (maybe a large room filled with zombiemen is followed up by a surprise entrance of a baron of hell).
  • Avoid repetition. One of the temptations that was hard to resist when working on DTWID was rebuilding iconic/memorable areas from the original levels. One of Romero's principles while designing E1 was to avoid repetition. If you reflect on E1, while many of the shapes of rooms were similar (squares, ovals, hallways are some dominating themes), Romero was careful "not to duplicate anything. It had to be fresh."
  • Consistent scale JR: "Then i would start mapping, keeping scale consistent regarding player movement, minimum ceiling height, how long i think it should take to play through to the first combat area." As I recall, 72 ceiling height was a popular one in E1.
  • Pacing. Also highlighted in Romero's statement above is the importance of pacing. A level shouldn't become monotonous imp and shotgun guy slaying, nor do you want too much time between fights. KDITD struck a very nice balance in this regard.

 

Anyway, I think the importance of two design principles that cannot be overemphasized is scale and contrast. Getting the scale right can make or break a map. I remember how important learning that principle was when I used to make DM maps.

 

Who this project may appeal to:

 

  • People with design values similar to the ones highlighted in this thread.
  • New mappers who are eager to build a solid mapping foundation and immediately start make something cool but don't yet feel they have the experience to make large and super-complex maps. 
  • Lazy mappers who want to make something cool, but don't want to spend a bajillion hours making the Taj-Mahal.
  • Experienced mappers who want the challenge of making something cool in a constrained design-space.
  • Anyone who appreciates the maxim: less is more. Oddly, when I typed this phrase into google this was the catch-all definition it gave: "used to express the view that a minimalist approach to artistic or aesthetic matters is more effective." This edict couldn't be more fitting to this project! And I had no idea the phrase was chiefly associated with 'aesthetic', one of my favorite words while working on DTWID.

 

In case you are not convinced that I am not just some nostalgia-addled-nit-wit, one of my favorite Doom 2 maps is Alleycat.wad, released in 2009 (though honestly it feels much older in my memory). It is a small map with a great sense of place and a nice city atmosphere. Totally unlike E1 levels, but adheres to many of the principles highlighted in this post, such as excellent scale, "meaningful" connections between rooms/areas, and a very strong sense of place: https://www.doomworld.com/idgames/levels/doom2/a-c/alleycat

 

If the hallmark of DTWID was to make as convincingly as possible maps that felt like they were actually made by Romero or Petersen, the goal of this project is to make an original, simple, yet compelling and coherent doom episode using the tried and true design principles of the masters.

Edited by Hellbent : formatting and improved articulation

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I mostly agree.  I find it a bad sign that half of the shots in wads in progress threads don't even show monsters and items.  It seems like gameplay design is following the visuals, a weird situation given that if people were motivated by looks over gameplay we wouldn't be having this conversation because this forum wouldn't exist.  Doom looks old. Even with GZDoom's ambient occlusion, normalmap support and all the rest, I haven't seen any wad with graphics that scan as anything better than OK graphics from the early 2000s.

 

As for large scale maps, I don't think they are inherently poorer. The extra time offers greater possibility of ebb and flow of intensity and gives more time to build up to large encounters. But they have to be paced well.  It's maybe more that it's easier to make a filler-packed slog when you have no restrictions than something inherent to the larger format -- limitations help you keep it tight, as you said.

 

Huge spaces though, another matter entirely. I think it's really hard to make them work well with Doom's AI, which to me makes this tendency for huge areas in maps seem a bad one. Reasons:

- hitscanners are a joy-kill at a distance, because it's almost like taking random damage when you can't see where it's from. Even most amateur mappers seem to get this, so they don't feature as much in these giant arenas, but

- that causes a problem because most monsters just fire their projectiles at your position and if they've got enough space the player can circle strafe their troubles away, which, if you're not going to use hitscanners, only leaves you archviles, revenants and mancubi to really bring the danger

- but even then, you've got monster clustering to contend with: eventually most monsters will be packed in a group near the player and thus more easily circle strafed in said giant arena

- so the solution to this I see most often is to stick a load of revenants, mancubi or arachnotrons up on pillars or elevated blocks so that the danger from multiple directions is preserved 

 

Put all this together, plus the massive step up in health from imp to mid-range projectile monsters, and really large battle spaces packed with enemies actually make the game feel slower to me. And less focused.

 

Best of luck with your project anyway, I like the principles and thinking behind it. Hope you get some takers and that it comes to fruition, you've got one guaranteed player here, that's for sure!

 

@Xaser downloaded No End in Sight, sounds great, thanks for the mention.

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Its why I personally prefer Scythe 1 over Scythe 2. I'd much rather have a wham-bam-mapset that doesn't get bogged down in switch-hunts, and has tamer but intelligent encounters rather than revenant and archie spam.

 

There are trends for 'bigger is better' which has perculated into modern design as a 'go big or go home' mentality.

 

However, Doom Mapping goes through phases and counterphases in the same way as art movements, though on a lesser scale. I entirely anticipate there will eventually be a shift in reverse, like you are pining for.

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6 hours ago, holaareola said:

It seems like gameplay design is following the visuals, a weird situation given that if people were motivated by looks over gameplay we wouldn't be having this conversation because this forum wouldn't exist.  Doom looks old. Even with GZDoom's ambient occlusion, normalmap support and all the rest, I haven't seen any wad with graphics that scan as anything better than OK graphics from the early 2000s.

 

You seem to have a skewed perspective on what "graphics" in video games are supposed to be. It is not an objective counting-up of how many polygons and pixel shaders the scene has. It does not scale linearly with gigaflops. It is holistically asking, is the stuff onscreen well-crafted and artistic? Does it look nice for what it is? And plenty of Doom maps look really nice... for a Doom map, which is perfect, because you're playing Doom.

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Ah, I think I've explained myself badly. It was typed out between work earlier, probably lost the plot with that last bit.

 

Personally, I think Doom looks great. I love the grittiness of the software renderer and the way everything that isn't fullbright or above 128 light fades to gray or brown with enough distance.  I think Doom has its own style and working within that looks better than adding loads of visual fx and dynamic lighting -- where it, for me at least, starts to look like an attempt to move the graphics themselves on.

 

@Hellbent I've derailed your thread from its project focus a bit, sorry.

 

Just seen your post Gez.  Well, I think the style is cool. But it doesn't look like a very interesting play space offhand to me, and no monsters or items. It strikes me as cart before horse, but I can't say without playing it.

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On 12/16/2018 at 3:24 AM, Hellbent said:

I still think there is space in the doom community for a new project adhering to some basic tenets that were true for DTWID. Basically, the goals of the project would be:

 

1. Make a new, stand-alone 9 level episode with its own look and feel

2. Borrow design principles from the original Doom levels as a guide toward good, "classic" design.

3. Make levels in size and complexity similar to those in Knee Deep in the Dead.

4. Create a strong sense of place and atmosphere using a limited number of vertices and lines. 

5. Avoid repetition in design and gameplay.

 

This sounds interesting. I enjoy the smaller levels with limitations approach to mapping.

 

Some questions:

  1. Would the 9 level episode try to tell a whole story (e.g., start in city, go to research facility, find portal to void then to Hell, fight demon lords in Hell) or would it be similar in theme to one of the original episodes?
  2. Would the plan be to stick to vanilla compatibility?
  3. Would only stock Doom 1 textures and bestiary be used?
  4. Assuming you got enough takers, what sort of timeframe are you looking for?

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Personally, I think the great thing about modern Doom is how readily you can create maps of whatever complexity you want.  Relatively simple maps can be great (I mean, I am the "100 lines" guy), but so can 10,000 line epics.  That Doom can flex to do either and still be fun is a testament to how robust the basic game mechanics really were.

 

After Doom 404, I'm personally steering toward doing some work with more complexity right now, but I'm sure I will be back in "constraintsville" sooner or later :)

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Great post Hellbent.

 

I personally agree with your calling limitations a blessing, and your references to classicly-inspired community wads were on point.

I think it bears mentioning, but Episode5: Sigil of Baphomet, Romero's new baby, falls in line with what you presented and can cost up to $160.

Clearly there are a lot of people that agree with you.

 

I have a few questions/comments/ideas, though:

 

Is it possible to have a Multiplayer Map that is basically a setpiece within a single player map? (To have Campaign Spawns and CTF Spawns totally unrelated?). Like, could E1M1 and Django5map01 mesh together into a medium sized map- but in single player dwango01 is an end-of-map set-piece for fighting a boss; -and in multiplayer, the campaign corridors are behind locked doors and play no role whatsoever in CTF? (this is just a gerneric example, not the specific plan)

This could be another restriction, so to speak, in forcing a doom episode to also be composed of well crafted multiplayer maps. And unless its a BattleRoyaleMOD, this should steer mappers away from making a space opera on mission 1.

 

I actually have been studying Wolfenstein 3D recently regarding map design. As much as classic DOOM level design is amazing, I think meshing the outdoors with Wolfenstein3D's mazes will greatly help the overall design philosophy of DOOM maps. IMO, the outdoor environments can have varying floor elevations whereas indoor techbases could be more exploratory mazes. This, coupled with using multiplayer maps as level set-pieces would actually give a map at least 3 aesthetically unique environments. For example, and Urban map would involve open streets, sewer maze, and a Bank interior setpiece.

I certainly am for modernizing DOOM in many various senses. Croutching and Jumping I think are cool. I dont want endless air ducts like some other games though. The snappy fast action needs to be held high. So things like Treasure from Wolfenstein3D could be done in DOOM. A PDA that counts for a pointless $500 is cool.

 

If I were to plan an episode's release I would do it in 3 parts:

1. First build and test multiplayer maps and find ~8 solid designs.

2. Incorporate said designs into larger single player maps for Doomguy and his Slayers Club Pals.

3. Polish, detail, and throw Hot Sauce on it.

 

2 cents.

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