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Phobus

Musings on Doom Editing

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As 2019 gets underway, I've had some thoughts around Doom and what it's place in my life will be. Seeing the thread on "Mapping Sadness" and my own post in the 2019 Doom goals thread, plus evaluating my response to the 25th Anniversary of Doom and the various articles Doomworld produced has given me plenty to mull over. After a bit of a rant about why I don't like what being in a community has done to my mindset in mapping and modding, it's become clear to me that frustrations with never being recognised for my efforts are probably more down to me than you. I obviously have a bit of an inflated sense of my own capabilities. A few thought-provoking articles on Cracked (of all places) happened to come up or be linked from other recent articles, coinciding with the last few days of introspection and I think I've hit on a few conclusions.

 

  1. I do indeed like making stuff for Doom
  2. I don't like trying to compete with the capabilities, free time and efforts of the community
  3. I don't have the free time to dedicate solely to Doom that I used to
  4. Mostly because I would rather do other things
  5. Despite all of this, I have a lot of ambitious ideas (mostly noted down in a lengthy Google Documents file)
  6. I have no intention of "growing as a mapper" - my skills and experience should be sufficient to realise any dream, given enough time and realism

 

So how do I get around the contradictions in the above? I think I may have cracked it, to be honest. Using a combination of working experience from my various jobs and some of the stuff I've read and ruminated on this last week or two, I think I've hit on a few ideas to dig myself out of this slump. This may be useful to you, hence the sharing!

 

  • Idea #1: SMART goals - an irritating acronym used in business, but also not a bad idea. Here's how I see it working in Doom:
    • Specific - go in with a plan. "Mappers block" is basically sitting in the editor not knowing what to do. Get around this by only achieving what you've got planned, then leaving it for the time being
    • Measurable - know what quantifies success. The "1 room per day" project is a pretty good example of this, as are time-limited speed maps, limit maps (10 sector, etc.) and others along that theme. If you can't definitively say "this is the point I am finished at" then you'll probably keep plugging away indefinitely at something before stalling
    • Achievable - make sure that you can actually achieve the above. If you want to make an entire megaWAD, that is a daunting objective. You can't just sit down and do it, so it's not a SMART goal. But to make 32 maps, one map at a time? Nearer the mark. How about for that specific mapping session? Only got two hours? It's either got to be a speed map, or you need to say to yourself "I'll just do this area/room" and then know when you've achieved that
    • Relevant/Realistic - both of these can be used, although realistic overlaps with the above. The first one is more about making sure the goal is actually part of the project, so for any given Doom project that's unlikely to be a problem, but it could be that you start on something that's got nothing to do with actually finishing a map and, in that case, should be stopped or left until the end. A realistic goal simply needs to accept any constraints, limits and hurdles that may need to be worked within. If you can't achieve it in the time you've got, it's not a good goal or a worthwhile ambition
    • Time-bound - make sure it has a clear end point. If your project is going to be finished "when it's done", it is highly unlikely to be done. Likewise, giving yourself an entire month to make one map will probably only serve to either have you rush the map early (to get it out of the way) or leave it until the last few days (because prior to that, you had "loads of time"). You need a decent timeline to get things done in, but you also need time to cover mistakes

 

So for the above to work, I'd suggest you basically plan every mapping session. The number of times I've sat down to "make a map" or "work on this project" and achieved so little in multiple hours of editing time is incredible. That is very much how mappers block and dead projects happen, I think. If I'd have said to myself something along the lines of "right, I need a room with a puzzle in to get the red key and I have an hour on my hands to get it made", that's a SMART goal and better motivation straight away. I know what I want to achieve, I know how I'll say it's done and I've got a (probably) realistic time frame in which to do it.

 

  • Idea #2: Breaking up monumental tasks - as alluded to above, a large goal is unwieldy and demotivating. How often do you find yourself going "I'll never finish this!" when faced with a deadline and a single big task? Well...
    • It's not a big task; it's a collection of little ones - identify the pieces and little things that will make up the completion of the big task. Use the SMART methodology above to see if your little ones are small enough. Breaking up a planned megaWAD into "Make MAP01; Make MAP02..." is almost definitely not enough. Each of those maps then needs breaking up into realistic goals that can be achieved in one mapping session
    • It's a hobby; not a job - as I've mentioned, a deadline is a double-edged motivation sword. Too tight and you'll either stress and overwork, or you'll just give-up. Project cancelled. Too loose and you'll probably find there's a big gap in the middle where nothing gets done. However, you're the one setting expectations for both yourself and the prospective player (if at all), so why even have a deadline? Why not instead just have an expectation of the number of sessions to achieve all of your well-planned and highly achievable goals? If you've got 25 goals (25 room ideas, for example), then that's probably 25 sessions, so you should be done after that, right? So you can measure progress even if you can't give a deadline, because you've got real-life to contend with and that should always come first
    • Don't work too hard; do take breaks - do you spend all day in front of the computer? Do you spend all of that time slogging away in a map editor or whatever? That's not good for you. Ignoring the health and social aspects, you simply can't work all day. If you're smashing through 7+ goals in one day and they're each taking you an hour or so, that's an impressive work rate that you probably won't sustain long. It's better to have defined breaks, preferably away from the computer. The alternative, of course, is that you are sat at the computer all day and your breaks are on the internet. You know where that'll get you? Distracted from what you're doing. You'll spend 6 hours with the editor open and probably 4 of those on some Twitch stream when you're not flicking through this forum, your various webchat clients and your news outlet/porn site of choice. Good luck finishing anything like that!

 

The above (particularly that rant at the end) leads in nicely to the next one...

 

  • Idea #3: Get dedicated, but only in short bursts - I was tempted to get into the whole Agile methodology here, but I feel like enough of a knob with the SMART goals bit, so I'll talk about a very loose interpretation of it instead:
    • Avoid distractions - we're apparently not designed for multi-tasking. What we're doing is flicking between things, instead, quite quickly. This also means that any one thing we're doing, we're doing badly, or we're basically ignoring most of what we're up to so that our main focus (which may not be what you think it is) gets all the effort and attention. Background music is a pretty good example of this. You're either not really processing it (just getting a bit of a mood or whatever going) or you're listening to it intently to the detriment of whatever you're up to (it's why they say loud music is a distraction when driving). So why not close the internet browser, have the music on low and just smash out that SMART goal in a quick half an hour. Maybe even ignore or silence your phone in that time, if you're feeling particularly dedicated
    • When you're finished, do something else - hit that goal, get the rush of achievement (maybe literally tick some sort of list off), perhaps show off your work online, to your family or pet, then move on with your day. You've got games to play, TV to watch, a tan to work on or some sort of relationship to nurture, so mapping isn't your whole life
    • When a project is done, draw a line under it - this kind of links in to the above, but if you've hit all of your goals, then that project is done. It's time to release it, delete it, archive it or whatever you'll do when you're finished. Do you start the next project? Do you take some time off to bask in the glory of your success? Up to you, but this is done. That's the whole point of this - it's to get people (me) to finish stuff without being consumed by the big picture

 

Finally...

 

  • Idea #4: Learn from experience - go for a full-on post-evaluation, if you like, or just think about it for a minute. Either way, try to learn:
    • What worked - did your one-room-a-day plan produce a fantastic map that you're really happy with? Then you know the sort of scale and time frame that works for you
    • What didn't work - so one hour wasn't enough time to get 2-unit greebles into your entire map? Or did you find that setting loose goals meant your project stalled for months? Did trying to work on something for a continuous month fall apart when your aunt visited for a week? These setbacks are just lessons that should inform your next plan
    • What you enjoy - so you managed to grind out a perfectly adequate map that people like playing... But the whole process was just torture for you? Change up what you're doing, or you won't want to keep doing it. Maybe you only like small maps, or you actually only enjoy thing placement... There's a way around your problem, even if it means going to somebody else
    • What you don't enjoy - I, personally, almost never actually finish a Cyberdreams-style concept map. I clearly don't like making them and this probably stems from the fact that I don't often enjoy the one-hit kill risk of fighting Cyberdemons. So it's probably in my interest not to keep planning them out, even if the idea I've had is a good one

 

 

As a result of the above, which is probably a daunting wall of text (try breaking it up into bite-size chunks...), I think I'm tempted to try out a week of mapping approximately one hour per day. Experience has told me that my maps average around 6.5 hours to make (number is plucked from the air, but feels about right), so if I plan out 7 sessions of mapping with SMART (ugh) goals and just get into it over the course of a week, I can practice what I preach. It'll mean more planning than I usually do, but that might be good.

 

Anyway, I hope this is of some use to those few of you that make it through.

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As a newbie this is indeed helpful to me. I don‘t know which discussions lead to this post, but I appreciate it. I definitely need to work on that „pre-planning“ thing, because I basically just stumble into the editor like a drunkard in Thailand and fumble around like crazy. The results are of course messy. 

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This was a good read. Thanks for sharing! Lots of it is very relevant to me and we've got very similar "problems" :)

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