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What is your process?

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I feel like this has been asked a million times, but it's a good topic of discussion, and I don't know that I've ever really articulated my mapping process. What is your creative process for building a map?

  • Do you develop an idea for awhile before you even start mapping?
  • Are you more methodical, or are you at the mercy of every whim and idea that hits you along the way?
  • Do you start mapping as soon as you are hit by inspiration, or do you mull it over awhile? 
  • What forms does inspiration come in?


For me, there is sort of a consistent, predictable way in which my mapping process unfolds (not that I'm much of a mapper in the first place). What usually happens is I get slapped by inspiration from something; either playing someone else's map, or looking at amazing screenshots and getting an idea that springs from it, and then I might mull the idea over a bit, or I'll jump right into the editor without giving it much deliberation.


One thing I love about mapping is that excitement that comes with an idea. A major reason I like mapping is because I'm chasing after an ever elusive ideal: to build maps that capture a certain aesthetic that is appealing to me; one that is a little bit tricky to encapsulate categorically, but something along the lines of "classic style", architecturally driven, smaller scale, simple, but striking, with minimal detail, with classic doom atmosphere; and a soft spot for minimalist dungeons.


Now I say the process is predictable, but, really, the only thing predictable about it is that the steps are always the same:

  • I get an idea
  • I immediately set out to try to implement the idea and start drawing the first area (unless I'm really tired; then I'll sleep on it).
  • What I draw triggers in my imagination quite a different idea than my original idea, and because the new inspiration is newer (and thus obviously better /s) I abandon my original idea and start going with the new idea. 
  • What I never do, unless I'm doing something for someone else with certain rules in place, is come up with a plan, and then keep to that plan throughout the creative process. No, I am pretty much at the mercy of every whim that comes at me, which makes attaining this goal of building things to a certain aesthetic generally a losing battle; which I guess is why I don't map that much overall.


For example, I've always wanted to make a really cool castle level. So, since I like to make DM maps, yesterday I decided I'd make a castle themed DM map, with lots of castle thingies (turrets? not sure what they're called, the things archers would shoot between; map15 of doom 2 has them on the green bricks). As I was thinking about how I was going to go about this castle, an image of a ship popped into my mind for some reason; so, thinking that was odd, I wondered why and then thought of Minas Tirith, the city shaped like a ship from ROTK, so, figuring drawing inspiration from Tolkien can't be a bad thing, I decided to start off my castle with the shape of a bow of a ship; I drew that; and immediately a new, unrelated idea took root: I suddenly saw crates on the ship; and there went my castle idea; so now I am building a ship with crates to hide behind etc. So what started out as "castle.wad" is now "tanker.wad". 


This is very typical for how I make wads. I get an idea; a vision in my mind of an architectural space that I want to bring into reality; I start to build it; find that building it is much more challenging than I thought it would be, and that the lines I draw put totally different ideas into my head, which would probably be just as good as my original idea but easier to implement, so I abandon the original idea for the time being (read: indefinitely) and run with the new ones instead . It's always a bit sad that I'm never able to keep with the original idea; but the few times I do, it rarely comes out very well; and it is almost always better to just go with the flow and follow the ideas as they come, without actually having an idea or control over where they are taking me, rather than trying to rigidly control and conform to a specific idea. But there are definitely pluses to sticking to the original idea when it is a really good idea; I just find it so very difficult to do so.


So mapping for me is kinda like this little adventure I'm setting out on and I have some ideas in my head about how the adventure is going to go, but it always takes me down paths I didn't expect, and to places I never intended to go. I guess that works well enough for an abstract game like Doom, but sometimes I'd just like to build the particular aesthetics I yearn for. I keep telling myself eventually, one day, I will. 

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Do you develop an idea for awhile before you even start mapping? 

To a degree, yes, but it's not like I sit and dwell on a concept in great detail, as I find some of the more interesting gameplay quirks come about in the midst of working on the more mundane sections of a map.



Are you more methodical, or are you at the mercy of every whim and idea that hits you along the way?

Some of column A, a lot of column B.



Do you start mapping as soon as you are hit by inspiration, or do you mull it over awhile?

I go about a decade between maps, so I'm not sure how to answer.



What forms does inspiration come in?

The form of the container. It is like water. Just look at the world around you, and leave your neighborhood once in a while. Anywhere could be a game map, and anything could be a gameplay object.


Normally I'll think of a general idea for a map. A secret facility in the side of a mountain, covered by a waterfall. An abandoned laboratory with a slowly-failing security lockdown system. A city street with a gas station and convenience store, across the street from apartment buildings. A deathmatch map full of player-activated traps, with a control room that kills the occupants if they stay too long. If the game engine I'm messing with supports the idea, then I would start making the starting area, and branch out along other paths. The problem is, having been clinically dead for about 12 minutes before, my drive to do absolutely anything is almost zero. Motivation is rare, so I have to jump on it in the rare instances it arises. Other times, a project will run far longer than my motivation will, and I abandon it, or worse, force myself to complete it with a modicum of effort. I've only just today finished a DooM map. My previous works were for AvP2 and Quake II, but those are lost to time, now.

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