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Nanami

About levels...

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Topic sounded kind of broad.
Anyway, I was just wondering what everyone's opinion is. Maybe to help me make better levels in the future. What's the most important feature in a level?
* Detail? Neat architecture with sunroofs and spiral stairs and moving machines and things.
* Texture allignment? Personally, if a wad doesn't have texture allignment, I throw it away right off the bat. I can't stand bad allignment. My wads may be repetitive and dumb, but by god, I spend hours on making sure all my walls are lined up right! =P
* Monster placement? I'm not too good with this. I usually put in some monsters, play it, and see if I survive or not. >.<
* Usage of new features? Making you have to jump or swim. Slopes and 3D floors.
* Difficulty? I personally thought my first level was really hard on UV. I made different difficulty levels so a person could step down if need be. It seems like everyone starts on UV and trashes the wad if they can't play it in UV, saying it's too hard. Isn't that the point of UV? It's hard?
* Health/Ammo? My levels almost never have health, or at least not much of it. If there's not a need for health, I don't put it in. Too much ammo doesn't annoy me as much as too little ammo. I hate coming around a corner and seeing a Baron when all I have is a pistol. But I also hate having max ammo of everything through the whole game. A wad should make you change weapons regularly, you know?
* Whatever else there is to like about wads, heh.
Anyway, just curious to see what everyone thinks.

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Yeah, imo Gameplay is most important, then goes the structure(texture themes flowing nicely, and great kewl looking designs.), and with the structuring goes making sure there are no errors like homs, then Hellspawn, item, and player placement, then detail placement(ie: hanging bodies, stands, trees, ect.), and Special features, (ie: swimmable water, 3D floors and lifts, colored sectors, ect.) There are other things but these are the most important to me.

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If there's one thing that pisses me off it's too little ammo in a level, and it's even worse if it's a multi-level wad.

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Gameplay would probably be at the top of the list, followed closely be realistic, believable detail (not excessive though). Lighting, thing placement, texture alignment, and difficulty would fall into these two categories. What I do not think is even remotely important (although it's nice to have if used right) is the special effects. A couple of effects I would like to see used are reflective floors (like in some areas of Shadow Warrior) and what I call heat warping. That's what you sometimes see on a hot summer day. It could be used in desert maps or in caverns with a lot of lava.

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Hello to all you DooMers!!! Just registered here in DW.

Well,

Detail - I like very detailed maps, I think it´s an expected thing to happen to Doom to these days (after all, Doom is almost 10 years old and there are other games with better grafx), although I also like not very detailed levels (maybe because I have just got back playing Doom. I think I´m a very nostalgic person :).
Texture allignment - sure it´s very important to make the map look a professional work.
Monster placement - Yes, mosters making a good surprise to you. Traps with monsters is not a bad idea too.
Usage of new features - Well... now we have source ports! ;) I never thought I would play Doom in high resolution one day and have all these incredible increments! Why not using them to make a map more attractive?
Difficulty - yeah, UV must be very hard, but not almost impossible for an experienced player. And ´I´m too young to die´ should give some challenge to a novice.
Health/Ammo - there should be a good balance in the triad health/ammo/monsters. There is a software that make an analysis about that.

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* Detail? Neat architecture with sunroofs and spiral stairs and moving machines and things.


Good detail is important. Average levels are a dime a dozen. Your WAD will be more memorable if it looks like you put effort and care into the construction.

* Texture allignment? Personally, if a wad doesn't have texture allignment, I throw it away right off the bat.


I agree completely. It shows the author is sloppy and/or lazy, and this usually bleeds over into other areas.

* Monster placement?


Critical, absolutely critical. This is a key component to good gameplay. The best architecture in the world won't save a map if the gameplay sucks balls.

If you're having trouble with monster placement yourself, the best advice I can give you is to plan your level, not only architecturely, but gameplay too. Do you want a fast, action packed map or slow, atmospheric and creepy? Decide, act, and then get a beta tester or two in and ask what they thought, if you achieved what you wanted.

* Usage of new features?


A bonus, but not critical.

* Difficulty?


Again, it depends on the type of level you're trying to make. There's a place for everything - easy going levels that make the player feel almost godlike in their ability to wipe out hellspawn, or balls to the wall difficult which make the player jump at every sound. Again, good testers will help you out here. The thing to remember is that there's a fine line between "fun" hard and "delete WAD as soon as Doom closes" hard.

* Health/Ammo?


Also a critical component of gameplay. If you come up short then you'll piss the player off. Not good.

A wad should make you change weapons regularly, you know?


Defintely.

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Sphagne said:

Gameplay --> Visual --> Features

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Gameplay first (including monsters, health, ammo etc.), then realistic detail that's consistent with the theme of the map (which is not necessarily intricate). If there is no theme, then it's general detail. (but don't go over the top and use 10,000 sectors or something like that, as you have to know what you're doing for that).

Maps that look good will be remembered, but maps that play good will also be.

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Detail is important and then gameplay. Detailed wads are somewhat easy to make, but making a good gameplay is much harder.

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Monster placement and also complex levels, with many rooms and corridors, giving you many options to fight. Also traps and surprises, but they shouldn't respawn from nowhere, there're archviles and switches for that.

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A good way to judge level difficulty is to follow these guidelines:

Im too young to die/Not too rough: You should be able to beat the level without any difficulty if you concentrate on playing, but it should not be ridiculously easy.

Hurt me Plenty: The game should be difficult and a bit stressing, but not to the point where you will have to reload constantly.

Ultra Violence/Nightmare: The game should stress you dooming abilities to the very limit.

Don't fret if someone says that your level is easy even if you made it so you could only barely defeat it on UV. There is always someone out there who has better skills than you.



Some other advices:

Aviod repetition. Try to make every fight just a bit different from the last. Don't give in to "infernal symmetry". (The condition where a level includes areas that are mirrors of each other, both in respect to architecture and monster placement).

Use a mixture of monsters. Not only does this make funny infights possible, but it also improves a battles tactical quality.

Don't overburden the player with ammo. The player should be forced to utilise different weapons and not just run through it all using nothing but the plasma gun or the super shotgun.

Mark all locked doors with the appropriate key colour. You can mark them in a original creative way, but make sure that the marking is readibly visible/decipherable.

Don't force the player to run too much behind and forth through already cleared areas. If it cannot be prevented put in a few trap doors to repopulate the area when the player returns.

Remember that cacodemons, pain elementals and lost souls can fly. Use it to their advantage.

Allow the player a choice in direction now and then. It greatly increases the sense of freedom and "place".

Please do not make Wolfenstein-esque secrets that can only be found through pressing all wall surfaces. Try to give just a tine clue to their existence. There are a plethora of different ways this can be done.

Different lighting values helps tremendously to make the level come alive.

If you want good reviews and appreciation please remember to ALIGN ALL TEXTURES! People are really picky about this issue nowadays.

The level should be completable without getting any of the secrets. Don't put essential keys/weapons in secret rooms. Of course completing the level without the secret shouldn't necessarily be as easy.

Don't dole out all the weapons in the start, unless the level is a non-stop slaughterfest. Aquiring weapons over time makes the player appreciate obtaining them more. Of course weapons should be given while they still have a practical use. Obtaining the rocket launcher once there is only a few scattered imps left makes it somewhat redundant.

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gameplay (playability) is it.
THAT is why we play DOOM... you want visuals or other features, then try planetquake.com/quake3.
just my 2c

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Nanami said:

* Detail?


Only if it doesn't get in the way of the game, and only as long as it's used elegantly and in scale (a relatively similar level of detailing throughout the map or the whole set even, if it's a multi-map WAD.) I think "detail" and how it shows in a map is something that grows with one's refinement at mapping and shouldn't be an aim. Several pretty simple maps are very cool looking, which means that how good map is doesn't necessarily depend on the size and number of sectors used.

* Texture allignment?


Heh. I've played maps with a few glitches and that didn't kill me, but aligning textures pleasingly is certainly important. Not just alignment, but also combinations and general texture layouts. Coupled with the architecture it's what maps a map look good or bad.

* Monster placement?


As in architecture, there's many ways to place the monsters, and this in turn interacts with how the map layout is. It's best to take advantage of nooks, shadows, different elevations, particular room shapes and tricks (teleporters, crushers, doors that open...) to make the monsters a more interesting challenge, but on occasion hordes of randomly placed monsters may be suitable.

* Usage of new features?


I personally prefer standard DOOM playability and compatibility, although even with that you can make parts of the maps challenges in themselves, having to maneuver over ledges or to jump to strategic places, and doors and switches can also be used to enhance play. These shouldn't dominate playability though. Monster killing is the most dynamic and entertaining part of the game, after all.

* Difficulty?


Paying attention to the three difficulty settings is, in my opinion, very important. I'd suggest making -skill 4 pretty tough. Keep in mind many players are very skilled and are able to kick cyberdemon butt without thinking. And even if you are skilled some playability issues might escape your way of playing, so it's best to find play-testers, preferrably representing different sorts of skill. If that isn't possible, it's always good to check out demo-recording sites (such as Compet-n or Opulent's SDA) to see what some players are capable of.

* Health/Ammo?


This depends on the monsters placed and how they are placed. There's apps that determine the ratio between ammo and opponents, which can help in deciding how much to place. I think that maps with lots of gun-wielding monsters tend to need more healing, as their attacks are hard to avoid. Also, you may wish to place a bit more or a bit less depending on how you want the map to be a challenge; a lack of health will slow play down while more ammo will speed it up, but both should stay within cetain bounds. Items should be placed strategically, most as rewards for defeating monsters. I don't think that in a map the player should be able to kill everything using but one weapon (well, unless it's the only one there is, of course) but instead should have use most of the ammo for each weapon. Keep in mind chainsaws and berserk packs if they appear, too, as many monsters can be killed with them, decreasing the amount of ammo required.

* Whatever else there is to like about wads, heh.


Well, detail, item placement and texture alignment aren't enough to define a good map; playing attention to the general layout is also important. It's like "detail" but on a large scale and playability depends on it, so it's really more important. Being able to define distinctive areas is crucial, different structures within a map or maps with differring architectual themes, sector heights, and lighting levels. As noted, this also affects how monsters can be placed and how much of a challenge they are. For instance an intricate interconnected maze-like area (take e1m7 of DOOM or map14 of DOOM II) contrasts with maps that have more well-defined distinctive areas (map10 of DOOM II comes to mind) or with a few open areas with various indoor sections of different sizes (map13 of DOOM II or even e3m6 of DOOM.)

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I remember being deeply involved in Unreal Tournament mapping. I even made some Doom level extentions/conversions, but those types of maps were generally hated by UT players. The thing that was most important was basic gameplay structure. The level had to make use of clever structuring, while maintaining "flow". To make the map truely "leet", you'd then go back an add trim/detail.

My advice would be to develope a basic theme and layout for your map, then try to expand each area of it to be more detailed. When I made my sequal to Dark Citdel, I had already figured out the basic design, so I would take each section and find ways to make them more clever. Unfortunately, I made my level so huge and complex, many people got lost when they tried it out. That's another thing to watch out for. You can easily get carried away and go too far.

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