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DMPhobos

incidental combat

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I've been looking at some of my recent maps and i've noticed that they rely a lot on incidental combat, having interconnected areas that are easy for monsters to move around instead of defined combat pieces, but im wondering if this is a good thing or not, and how this can make a bad map if abused, so i wanted to ask, what are your thoughts on incidental combat? What makes 'good' incidental combat and when is bad? i also would love to hear some examples about incidental combat done right

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Yep, basically what wheresthebeef said. Incidental combat is fine, if it's not a Cyberdemon running around somewhere where he shouldn't, or monsters piling up infront of a door and surprising you. But the occasional Caco lurking around in dark corners is always good.

 

In my recent map (to be released soon) I have the bad kind of incidental combat. I have 5 Imps, which I actually want in a certain area of the map. But somehow they always end up in a very specific corner and basically wait for me there to come down with the elevator. I might want to put some monster blocking lines nearby, so that there is a bit more variety. I'd love to have some more incidental combat in my map actually, but it doesn't seem to be that easy actually and greatly depends on the map layout.

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I'm a huge fan of incidental combat; it reminds me of the old DM trick of using wandering monsters whenever the players are getting bored or listless.   The only real flaw I see in using them is with flyers or teleporting monsters that either get stuck in some obscure area or don't activate.

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Perhaps I'm wrong in thinking that there isn't a consensus on this term that's closer to what I imagine it should mean, already. If so, then yikes: that's a lot of misdirected text!

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It's nearly always a good thing. Just don't do it the way Hexen does, randomly spawning a new monster or two every minute or so on the map. One of my least favorite things the game does. Inflates the monster count and rips away the sense of accomplishment from being able to score 100% kills.

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It's always a good thing but kind of hard to pull off, at least for me. The lack of it is one of the reasons the new Doom game is not as good as the old one even though technical constraints need to be taken into consideration.

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It's a very fun idea! The only problem I see is that UV Maxers will hate having to search for every single monster :P

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I think a valid approach is to design for setpieces, but be a little sloppy about it. Happy accidents are interesting, and a monster set to be deaf might have a line of sight to the player you didn't predict and start wandering much sooner than intended, creating interesting new setups that you hadn't thought of.

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2 hours ago, Jimmy said:

It's nearly always a good thing. Just don't do it the way Hexen does, randomly spawning a new monster or two every minute or so on the map. One of my least favorite things the game does. Inflates the monster count and rips away the sense of accomplishment from being able to score 100% kills.

 

Heh I cherish it, spending 30 minutes off in some area failing to figure out a puzzle, then coming back it's like a fresh map to slaughter

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Zombies, imps and lost souls function better in it. Tanky monsters and revenants need a lot more planning or they'll ruin the flow of the map. An incidental vile or cyberdemon is a great way to remind players they are never safe (if you are going for that atmosphere).

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7 hours ago, elend said:

Yep, basically what wheresthebeef said. Incidental combat is fine, if it's not a Cyberdemon running around somewhere where he shouldn't...

 

 

You should have seen my face when the Cyberdemon in Tricks and Traps went through the teleporter!

 

I agree with pretty much everything said in this thread. Incidental combat can truly make a map feel more alive.

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Posted (edited)
13 hours ago, JudgeDeadd said:

The only problem I see is that UV Maxers will hate having to search for every single monster :P

Can confirm. Still, one of my favorite maps of all time, dv map02, doesn't have a set piece fight until almost the end of the map (after you take the yellow key), the rest of the map is an open area with monsters that can walk anywhere, only incidental combat, it was a hell of a routing session when I wanted to max it but I don't mind when the map is so fun ;)

 

Anyway, the usual problem with mappers doing incidental combat maps is that the combat consists of a random pinky, these 5 imps, the lone caco in a dark corner, etc, and that honestly puts me to sleep (and many other people as you can see with the existance of a "slaughter community"), dv02 shows that the slaughter map does not neccesarily mean you have to do set piece fights (if you cut the area after the yellow key from the map you end with a map without a single set piece fight!) and that incidental combat is not neccesarily easy and just filler for your map.

Edited by Ancalagon

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IMO "incidental combat" (if you define it as the opposite of set pieces, which we seem to be doing in this thread) also includes things like crumpets and sd20x7, where there are kinda little set pieces everywhere that don't lock you in, and which are designed to interact well with other areas and (ideally) be fun/engaging whatever order you play them. That's kind of what I think of as good incidental combat. Some maps from the first HR also have a similar approach to this, I think.

 

"Bad" incidental combat is perhaps when little groups of enemies blend into the whole just because they don't engage you at all.

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Interesting conversation. I've traditionally viewed incidental combat as "Everything which isn't a trap/setpiece." So if you walk into a room and monsters are already there, many of them strategically positioned while others wander about, that to me has always been incidental combat. Being oldschool, and having done my share of attrition/resource management maps, this type of incidental combat serves to chip away at the player before you hit them with a big trap/setpiece where you try to kill them. The old, chip, chip, BOOM! approach. ;D

 

This doesn't mean the incidental combat is easy or uninvolving. Ideally, it's a little on the tough side and forces players to worry about their declining health and armor.

 

I've also viewed roamers as a feature of really good incidental combat. @Capellan is expert at using roamers to vicious effect, and I also found strong roamer use in E1M6 and E1M7 of Lunar Catastrophe. Nothing so satisfying as thinking you've cleared an area only to have a Sergeant wander in from a side passage and put some buckshot in you, or whatever the case may be. It adds to the sense of danger and desperation, especially if you've barely survived the big fight which drew the roamer your way.

 

I find myself in agreement with Alfonzo's description of filler. It's another necessary aspect of Doom. One could argue that it's better to use no monsters at all than to irritate the player with overly easy combat, since monsterless areas build up the sensation of suspense, along with the dread of wondering how bad the attack will be when it comes. I think it's good to use both. A few easy fights keeps the player alert with a little target practice, while the suspense approach keeps them wondering. It's really the way mappers mix the elements that matters. It's all a valid part of the Doom experience.

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5 minutes ago, Steve D said:

@Capellan is expert at using roamers to vicious effect

 

This is generally much less true of my earlier work, I think.  But recent stuff like "Vindicator" from ASS33 and my Deadly Standards E1 map definitely feature some aggressive roamer use.

 

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23 minutes ago, Capellan said:

 

. . . my Deadly Standards E1 map . . .

 

 

I was thinking of that exact map. You really put a hurt on me with those roamers. ;)

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Making the way a map's different monster groups chainlink then trickle into action play differently on consecutive test-runs/playthroughs is always good in my book. The omission of this in most games/levels using basic scripting/automation/node adheremce to execute combat and/or strictly segregated play areas within a single loaded level (e.g. Quake 2's tight sluices) is maybe the main reason I don't take to these types.

 

The possibility of the unexpected in a well laid out map in this sense is one of my main draws to the OG Doom mechanics. Beyond leftover monsters trickling after the player as he progresses (and the aforementioned deaf flag), sound blocking and 1-off monster teleporting line defs are also great tools to raise unpredictability, as is letting a monster quite far ahead in the map trigger together with an instant encounter, so that the timing of his arrival will vary on how long it takes to mop up the initial onslaught.

 

Interesting subject anyway, whose mechanics sets my mind on early pinball machines, though where the bottom of the board would be will certainly change as the player traverses, leaving certain triggers reliably "saved" for when the balls are known to be rolling in their particular direction. Theoretically you could create stuck stragglers overusing this, but you'd have to have pretty convoluted geometry for this to become a problem I think.

 

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Thank you all for the responses, i was particularly interested in playing some of the maps mentioned such as valiant's map29 or Return to Hadron, in particular Return to Hadron has been rather insightful to this since most of the gameplay is based on incidental combat with arena layouts that monsters can easily move around and i really enjoyed completing E1!

By the look of it, it seems one problem it's that incidental combat can feel boring and uninteresting if done bad, with many low tier monsters running around just for the sake of keeping things 'busy', guess its something i gotta learn how to avoid since it seems im a bit guilty of this hehe. Once again thank you for the responses and recommendations

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I think romreo discusses this wrt to tech gone bad. The monsters spot you and are teleported well behind you so that when you backtrack its incidental small encounters. random monster spawning too, iirc.

 

the idea is that incidental combat gives you the illusion of control. traps break that illusion. (or vice versa on replays)

 

I wouldnt call an HK spawning next to you in a small room as a trap, though. That seems pretty incidental. That is just DOOM. I figure "traps" cause 1. the lights to go out or liquid to rise (psychological change), or 2. force you to flee a location with enemy attacks (physiological change), or 3. teleport you to a new destination with a fight (physical change), or 4. crush you (metaphysical change). Everything else is incidental.

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I think many maps these days rely too much on setpieces, and it feels like EVERY encounter needs to be some grandiose lock-in battle. For one thing this removes a lot of unpredictability and non-linearity, and therefore lessens replayability. For another thing, it just feels gets tiring. It's good to have different types of encounters to keep things varied & engaging, and even areas lacking monsters to give the player a little breathing room. It's like the plot of a book/film - it shouldn't have multiple climaxes, or one endless climax.

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