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just a little design rant

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so, i need to express my dilemma. externalize it to maybe re-evaluate it. or maybe just to remember and to learn to make it different next time.


my issue is actually very specific, even banal you might say. i'm close to finish my current map. maybe it already was finished but i shot over the line.


i re-did e1m1. a very simple design. but i aimed at making it more interesting. make more interesting stuff happen within this simple design. so, what did i do? in short, i wrote scripts that pick from random numbers that open one of two routes through the level and spawn 4x2 different varieties of items and monsters. and i think this was a big mistake. i've literally wasted days doing this.


why is it bad? well, the script could be organized and optimized better. it's not just a simple spawn_thing function. you need to disable line specials, set specials, adjust timers, make sure this does that and if the random number roll that, you have to do this. oh and then this is also affected, now this doesn't work, you need to do this... it's a nightmare if you want to do it properly and really think of every possible situation. but that's not even the worst thing.


i think the worst thing is the balancing and how you affect the gameplay of a map when, for example, you spawn a chaingun instead of a super shotgun or you spawn 5 pinkys instead of 2 revenants and so on. oh, and don't forget to add ammo for the weapons you spawn. oh, but with that number, the outside route opened, you need to add ammo in the outside area, not the inside area. that's where the other weapon spawns...


if you want to add this type of variety, you need to balance the map around every possible rng number. so, instead of having one map with one item/monster layout, you have one map with like 8 possible layouts. it's basically impossible to balance properly. you can imagine that the map plays vastly different when you get a chaingun instead of a supershotgun etc. 


is this such a bad thing though? yes, i think so. you just have to put so much effort into playtesting and balancing that i don't think it's worth it to add variety to a single map. i think retrospectively it was a mistake to do it. i think it's overall just better to have a very strict layout of monsters and items. it makes it way easier to create an experience and you can spend more time making this one experience great.


i don't think it's impossible to do this kind of stuff properly. but it's very hard and costs a lot of time and effort you could spend building more maps instead.


thanks for reading. just wanted to put this out of my head. maybe some can take this as a lesson for their projects.

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Yep, this is a common problem with any sort of randomized content.


One method to circumvent troubles with item/monster balance is to use a weighted spawning system where you assign values to each item that can be selected, and values to each monster that can be selected. Then you keep spawning stuff, adding together the values for each set until both sets are roughly some equal arbitrary value. I would perhaps start with monsters, and then spawn enough ammo/health to take care of them. It will take a lot of playtesting to make sure the values you assign are balanced, but you can easily tweak them by simply changing some numbers.


I would not try to balance each area, but focus more on balancing the map as a whole. It's a lot easier, and if you spawn enough things using such a system, it will "even out" on the larger scale and can work pretty well. Regardless, there will always be instances where it is too easy, and instances where it might be too difficult. This is just a caveat of doing randomized stuff. Sometimes the RNG will fuck you and there is nothing you can do.


I commend you for your efforts, though, and I implore you to keep at it. It seems daunting at first, but once you develop a system that works, you can apply that system to any map. The trick is to keep things simple and scripts generalized so they can be reused easily.

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i have made a decision. i'm currently modifying the map to not have the random elements. i will release both versions of the map very soon(tm) though, so everyone can experience both versions of the map.


i feel more comfortable without the random elements. it's a nice gimmick to mess around with but, as i said earlier, it's way easier to design and balance a map around a strict layout of monsters and items. it's so much easier to adjust things afterwards as well. although the map is more linear and static now, but i'm willing to pay this price. i think i will take this opportunity and adjust the map a little bit to have different difficulty levels. that's going to be a hell of a lot easier than this randomizer nonsense. 


... and then i can finally get back to my map02 rework. man, pretty hard to let go of a map and call it done. i always find things to change.

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I’m honestly not sure if it is “good” design or not but a “replay-ability” approach taken in the map Skillsaw and I made for BTSX E1 (Map12) was to use a non-linear hub-style layout and depending on which areas are visited first the unvisited areas could be played differently and or had additional enemies released into them. This approach could be expanded further with more alterations to pathways and enemies in unvisited areas. Whilst a player could replay the map almost exactly the same way each time, giving them the choice of progression and then changing expectations from prior playthroughs felt better than distinctly random events.


Map12 of Mutiny (a collab I did with Purist) also tried to give some replay value in larger choices/tactics - though in this case it was largely a choice between a hard/rush option and a slower/gather power up option.

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