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Doom Marine

Tough Design Decisions Discussion

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All of those are extremely relatable. Another thing that comes in mind is how much attention I put often into little things. Some examples of what I often ask myself would be...

"Does the sound of this door opening/ceiling raising/switch flip/etc. affect the atmosphere or ruin the immersion in any way?"

"Should they grab a blue or red key, here?" 

"Now, would it be better if the player activated this lift through a switch or by pressing the platform itself?"

"Is the roar of this particular enemy fitting for when the player turns this corner?"

I'd like to know if anyone else thinks these little details, that last as little as a second, matter or affect the intended atmosphere of the map.

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That sounds like you are over analyzing things, Juza. Especially Key color. The only situation where I would think about which key color to use, would be if my map is heavily color coded and the key color has something to do with progression.


Basically, a great and interesting OP, which I can fully agree with. I try to adhere to these guidelines as well, although not always successfully, especially regarding detail. Sometimes I change or remove detail, to make room for gameplay, but it always kind of pains me to do so. Definitely something I still have to learn and get better at. Recently I played a lot of vanilla style maps and those are the best teacher of how to optimize maps. 

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I don't have a lot of tough design decisions but I tend to have some not-so coopfriendly designs. For instance , I love 3d bridges but they easily break in cooperation mode. So , when I participate in a project , I have to balance between those quirkies and coopfriendlyness.


More usually , as a mapper , making hard maps is quite addictive so I often have to check if a trap is not a little too dangerous or not.


I hope I answered well the OP's question.

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This post gave me some food for thought.

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Insightful posts here, and Ling's scientific breakdown of why the Doom2 monsters are entertaining to fight was great to reread.


I want to specifically address the point about new enemies. Most mappers shy away from using custom or altered enemies, or altered behavior in any way really. 90% of what comes out features completely stock behavior in both the weapons and the enemies. This is understandable, but I think wads benefit from having at least one custom enemy as it helps give them their own identity and their own gameplay style in some way. I find myself forgetting that I've played certain wads - surely a bad sign for those wads, but this is unlikely to happen when I went "ooh, whats that?" as I came across a new enemy variant.


While mapping, there have been so many times where I thought an arachnotron would be the perfect enemy with the right attack for it's location in the map, but it was just too damn big and too meaty. Conversely, I often find myself wanting a mid-tier chaingunner enemy, but there simply isn't one.


My point is, despite having an excellent roster of enemies, there are definitely some holes that can be filled in. People bitch to no end about how lame the Hell Knight is, but having a weaker and stronger variant of the same enemy simply allows so many more combinations in terms of monster placement and thus more options for you as a designer. To me, these kinds of enemies are a win-win, though of course some don't see it that way. I've used Plasma Marines (a shotgunner with an arachnid's attack, basically) in several of my wads and people always seem to like them. I've also added things like imps that are 2x faster. I pretty much always add these enemies in as simple but obvious color swaps, following Doom's example: Barons recolored to Hell Knights and Shotgunners recolored to Zombiemen with the recolor denoting the enemies strength, and the recolors are very distinct so the chance of mistaking the enemies for one another is slim.


However, it is easy to go too far with it! In that old thread from 2014, fraggle said this:


If you look at the Doom 1 monsters I guess most of them all fit a familiar pattern [...] The Archvile and Revenant break that pattern. They both extend the game by adding new and unexpected gameplay that is admittedly original. It's exactly what you'd expect to find in a sequel, and Doom II already got enough criticism for just being more of the same. But basically, that original gameplay is what I like and enjoy about Doom as a game, it's what I find fun. You describe those monsters as "cool" and "neat"; sure, I'll accept that, but I just don't find them fun. I dislike Plutonia partly because it makes pretty heavy use of those two monsters; never played more than a couple of levels from it.

I don't agree with him about the Doom1 -> Doom2 roster, but I do agree with the sentiment overall that breaking the established patterns of Doom can be anywhere from annoying to damn near unplayable. This demonstrates that the line in the sand is different for everyone, but what he says describes exactly how I feel about many custom enemies seen in ZDoom-family mods, especially ones from within the last 10 years such as Complex Doom. The new enemies behave in such erratic ways that are so thoroughly different to their vanilla counterparts and in turn I wind up dead in seconds. This is possibly exacerbated by the fact that most servers add their own batch of mods as well, but the point is that too much change can repel even the most avid Doomers in some cases.


That brings up it's own point: There is a somewhat wide audience out there for stuff that is well beyond what many of us think of as "Doom". There are many Doomers out there who don't even like Doom, which is the say the base game itself. I know that probably sounds insane (and it is), but the fact is that the most popular online Doom servers at this point are those featuring tons of behavior mods. So many that it gets to the point that, in terms of gameplay, the game is no longer recognizably "Doom". (Obviously, it is still Doom on the visual front as most of the assets are edited Doom graphics, but still.) There is only very little overlap in how the gameplay actually plays out, and accordingly there is only little overlap between "Doomworld wad players" and "Zandronum Complex Doom/MegaMan Doom/Heavily Modded Brutal Doom players", but both have a sizeable base for you to potentially cater to, so it's worth keeping in mind if you've ever wanted to try something "truly foreign".


I'd also like to note that when a mod gets a lot of press attention, it is almost always those which go well beyond the bounds of normal Doom. Eviternity (which kicked ass, by the way) is an exception in that it was the visuals that were thoroughly different rather than the gameplay experience, so the risk of alienation was minimal while the appeal of "something new" was still there in full force.


To summarize this huge wall,


1) The default Doom/2 roster is awesome, but there is undoubtedly some room for expansion

2) Changes that go too far beyond the scope are going to alienate most "traditional" Doomers

3) There is a decently sized audience for things that go well beyond the scope of what you and I think of as "Doom"



Man, SCREW Decorate!! D3H4CK3D CR3W F0R L1F3!! W3 PWNS J00 L4M3RS!!



..Nah I'm kiddin, but dehacked does work in EVERYTHING and has the unintentional benefit of forcing things to stay "traditionally Doomy". Yes yes I know Batman Doom is a thing but still


Edited by Doomkid

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7 hours ago, Doom Marine said:

3. Fights: Scripted vs Dynamic


If a map is designed to be played only once, then this is not an issue... but I design my maps for replayability (which favors unpredictability, ambiguous decision making) and demo-recording (which favors linearity), so it's a sticking point for me

You can't really design maps to be interesting for MAX/speed-runners, because ultimately people run what they enjoy playing first and foremost, and somewhere later down the line there might be some half-assed table flls for stuff nobody can really be arsed to do.


In practice, and this is not only true for myself but also for other runners, your stuff needs to work properly at all times, because if it doesn't, nobody can really be arsed to throw an entire weekend or longer at the map, when it (randomly) denies successful runs. I mean, sure, you might get a table fill, but actual competition on a map that randomly ceases to function? Unlikely.


This means avoiding cases where runners can accidentally skip linedefs. This ranges from simple teleports (which are annoying if skipped) to "critical linedefs" like for example in SOD 29 or eviternity 05 (I think it's the map called "demon", anyway). The moment you work in boom format (or "higher") you have all the tools and liberties you will need to make sure your setups are failsafe even under "extreme" conditions. This also means that people who say that boom conveyors are prone to failure have no idea what they're talking about. Of course a machine will fail if the parts don't work in unison, duh. But that's almost entirely on the mapper, and there are very few and specific exceptions to this. When your map has a single point of failure that can cause softlocks for runners, then it might very well happen to the one or two unlucky fellas out there who somehow lined up the necessary conditions to produce a malfunction on accident.


Another factor here is the reliability of monster teleports. I can easily forgive small delays when it's "unimportant fodder", or some degree of unpredictability, but the moment your stuff has a chance to not show up in the map at all, you done fucked up. And yes, I've been there too and built jank, we all make mistakes, especially during our first handful of maps, but proper and stable setups aren't difficult to do. Rule of thumb for everything that is supposed to be stable: Keep it simple, stupid! Don't build some Rube Goldberg contraption that may or may not work depending on room temperature, humidity, sourceport, compat flags or whatever if you can avoid it. Think quite clearly what you want a setup to do, and then concern yourself with building a "machine" that accomplishes what you want with the least amount of steps possible. That way you're already on a good way to building something that works in a reliable fashion at all times, even independently of source port behaviour (Really important if you want for example both broad appeal and happy runners!)


Another small aspect when it comes to monsters, roaming, setpiece, or otherwise: Make sure players can't randomly knock stuff down a cliff. Nothing is more frustrating than having a good run turn to ashes because some random monster fell off a cliff and can't be seen or even heard anymore, never mind the time loss when you have to go scrounging for a loner.


Having said all that, mechanical stability is an often neglected part of polish, imo. Not only are "stable maps" potentially more attractive for runners of all sorts, it also avoids situations where your maps screw the average pleb.

Edited by Nine Inch Heels

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what a great topic, OP!  monsters, visuals, and fights, oh my!


my first map for DOOM was a really fun process.  But I definitely wanted DOOMguy to crouch and jump and... fuck it... reload!  But honestly, the faults of that map were not that Lost Souls and Revenants have the same height.  The facts of DOOM are not what keeps a map from being significant in its own right.


Alien Bastards! was a lot of fun.  The DOOM balance was the same, but everything was re-colored into some Duke Nukem fantasy game.  The Flakgun was identical to the SSG, for example; and the flamethrower was identical to the Plasmagun. This was love for DOOM and it felt great.


So, on topic #1: Monsters- there are few actual needs in the DOOM2 roster.  As DOOMKID pointed out, a 'Revenant with a plasma gun' would be niche role to fill.  But the idea to re-balance the entire DOOM roster is a bad idea.  DOOM has solid gameplay.  A green Pinky with more health and speed is fine (Greeny?).


Topic #2: Visuals- I think people take this over the top too often.  It is like irrelevance in reloading guns.  DOOM is not missing 'gun reloading' and it also is not missing 'realistic decals'.  DOOM3 had all the realistic design elements that people clamor about in DOOM wads and achieved little to no fanfare for doing so.  IMO, act 1 of DOOM3 is the worst as it tries to hard to make a believable environment that it misses out completely on the superior map layouts of act 2.  Espi had a way of making a room feel like it had a purpose but you have no idea what that purpose is [apparently this is the room with computers and shotguns].


Topic #3: Fight!- I was just playing SID map 03, and I open a door and there is an IMP staring me down and screaming and throwing a fireball.  When I shoot him, the sound activates a nearby Shotgun guy, and he walks over behind the IMP so that as one dies the other takes his place.  And there is a third shitgunguy in the corner so that as soon as I walk through the doorway, he activates and takes a shot at me.  Its like 3 encounter types rolled into me opening a door.  And it awesome.

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There's a lot of very smart stuff being said in this thread, but my general advice to everyone is to always take care to know your audience, your instincts, your vision, and the needs of your specific project rather than letting other people dictate them to you. There are people who hate anything that requires a deep understanding of the established combat meta because it's not accessible to them; there are people who hate anything that doesn't require a deep understanding of the established combat meta because it doesn't offer them a challenge. There are people who love to go in "innocent" and be repeatedly challenged to understand new things; there are people who have mastered existing mechanics to such a degree that they find it difficult to bend to change. Whose side are you on? Are they both too extreme? Are the dichotomies false to begin with?


One major factor (for question #1 specifically) is the size of the project. Over the course of a megawad or large mapset, you can introduce quite a few new monsters and mechanics in a way that allows them all to be memorable and distinct, and allows the player to master them all. In a single map, you'll struggle to integrate more than a few new things, simply because there's not enough space for the nuanced repetition that's required to master them. There are plenty of great releases in the community's history that amount to completely new games -- and some of those projects manage to treat themselves as completely new games without even introducing new mechanics. But the fact remains that players are totally capable of adjusting to completely new bestiaries or heavily mixed and modified ones if you give them the time to do it, and if you present everything in such a way that they are able to understand and learn it from the ground up. I really appreciate rdwpa's point about a slightly varied monster being more difficult to adjust to, and generally it's best to have a new monster feel really distinct rather than itching at the player's expectations in a way that's hard to adjust to. On the other hand, Doomkid's post in this thread reminded me of his map Shovelware Adventure, which had a monster in it that was essentially a faster-moving, faster-shooting, higher-health Imp. This monster played with my expectations, making me feel like I could just run up and take it out like fodder, but then in doing so (and failing to eliminate it in one hit) I exposed myself to retaliation, which created a threat. That sort of subtle twist isn't usually interesting to someone who's deep in the Doom meta and engaging with combat on a macro level, but it's interesting to someone who's engaging with monsters directly on a micro level via dodging and individual targeting as opposed to macroevasion and macrostrategy. On the third hand, there's such a thing as creating monsters simply to vary the flavor of a mapset, add to the internal narrative/lore, or create a sense of distinct settings within a mapset -- like the new shotgun zombie added in the last leg of Jenesis as part of the story, or the secret-level-exclusive enemies in Adventures of Square that are there just for fun. There are plenty of players that love stuff like that too. Who do you care about? Which do you enjoy?


You can run into some similar questions with strictly designed ("scripted") combat vs. variable combat. I think the OP answered its own question just fine -- i.e., you need to have both if you want any sense of variety -- but it's worth keeping in mind that both have their pros and cons, and different levels of value for different audiences or different project goals. Combat that's designed to play out a certain way is a tailored experience that can be extremely engaging and deep the first time (and most likely additional playthroughs as well, if it's well designed), while variable combat offers an element of unpredictability that some players value very highly.


Every design decision should be made intelligently, but I'm very skeptical of any attempt to quantify what an intelligent design decision is or turn it into an exact science. I think those attempts always end up hyper-focusing and losing a lot of other valuable aspects of design besides the one that's being quantified. On the other hand, hyper-focusing is great if you are a hyper-focused player with a hyper-focused audience -- far be it for me to tell you what not to do. When you get feedback from people, what it really helps you to do is understand how well you're communicating your vision with the player. It's really valuable for adjusting things to communicate better. If you ever find yourself wanting to change your entire mapping style based on feedback you're getting, then you're probably being too pliable, and the result is probably going to be a map or mapset that speaks to no one.

Edited by Not Jabba

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Concering the point #1 - I think restraining yourself from using new monsters because it is not immediatelly clear what they can do and how to counter them is silly. We know all monsters from DooM because we played DooM day and night for years, but at the beggining every monster was a mystery for any of us. New monsters just have to be introduced the rigth way and it's actually good practice to think how to intruduce them while creating their design. If you can't think a way to convey their functionality to player in fast and easy way just using the gameplay, it's not a good design. Some monsters are self explanatory (like cybruiser) and only unknown things about them is their health and damage. Pyro demon on the other hand uses few different attacks that are very different from what a normal Baron can do and as such have to be introduced properly. But I completely agree that any new monster should bring new metagame. It's real disapointment of Hell-Forged, which have some of the best custom monster sprites that were made for DooM period, but the monsters are just more bullet spongy versions of already existing monsters.


But there is another interesting aspect of this topic - what should be the new monster that could change DooM gameplay in similar way as Archvile, Revenent, Mancubus and Arachnotron did in DooM 2? Monster like that would definitelly be worth of adding and using in custom map.

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1 hour ago, NeoWorm said:

Concering the point #1 - I think restraining yourself from using new monsters because it is not immediatelly clear what they can do and how to counter them is silly. We know all monsters from DooM because we played DooM day and night for years, but at the beggining every monster was a mystery for any of us. New monsters just have to be introduced the rigth way and it's actually good practice to think how to intruduce them while creating their design. If you can't think a way to convey their functionality to player in fast and easy way just using the gameplay, it's not a good design. Some monsters are self explanatory (like cybruiser) and only unknown things about them is their health and damage. Pyro demon on the other hand uses few different attacks that are very different from what a normal Baron can do and as such have to be introduced properly. But I completely agree that any new monster should bring new metagame. It's real disapointment of Hell-Forged, which have some of the best custom monster sprites that were made for DooM period, but the monsters are just more bullet spongy versions of already existing monsters.

I'm a metagame minimalist.


Beyond initial recognition followed by remembering what the monster does and how much health it has, a monster like the Cybruiser with the rocket and chaingun combo overlaps the existing roles too much, so I decided against adding them to my lineup.


I view the bestiary metagame like chess: all of pieces have roles that for the most part, don't overlap much... the minimum it takes to cover maximum combat scenario.


The monsters that did make the cut in DVII Second Edition is tailored towards extending the Doom2 metagame, rather than just add a stronger imp, or faster bull demon, or a more threatening bruiser...

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I don't generally use new monsters much, and if a wad makes lots of changes to the base game's weapons or bestiary I am unlikely to play it.


If you are going to add/change monsters, then having fewer, specifically purposeful changes are IMO the way to go.  "I added a new lower tier flying monster to fix a gap in Doom 2's bestiary" would get a big tick from me, for instance.  New boss monsters are also OK.

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19 hours ago, rdwpa said:

1a. The early period of playing a set with customs is often awkward -- revenants, archviles, and cybies, as salt-inducing as they are to some, are familiar beasts to the meta-inclined player. An innocuous-seeming imp that hurls its fireballs 10% faster is now a menace to muscle memory. Sometimes ingrained habits can be overridden temporarily, after a short transitional period. Sometimes it's not possible at all. In that case, a new monster might always be a nuisance.

Speeding up fireballs is the worst, not only because it interrupts muscle memory... it's also cheap and disempowering the player.


I understand that the game is built around the player's skillset from 1993, but there are many other ways to buff monsters for 2019 without changing the projectile speed.


In my experimentation, I find that slightly speeding up enemies is preferable to speeding up fireballs... the former feels very visceral, in-your-face, "Doom"... the latter feels like a cheap trick and disempowering. I am 100% opposed to fireball speed changes.


19 hours ago, rdwpa said:


3. One compromise I've always found appealing: make sure an informed player, i.e. the demo recorder, armed with skill and thorough research, can rein in the chaos. For example, if your map starts with a 'zerk part, let me bullrush out and come back with a good weapon rather than swing those annoyingly variable fists out of obligation. Way easier said than done because it is rarely this clear cut. Max routes -- the actual fast ones; not the fast-looking ones that get those thumbs-ups but can be 20%+ faster -- can be pushed to absurdities only skilled maxers can properly anticipate. And they are very likely to be obnoxious even before that. Doom's RNG itself is a structural bottleneck that can't be avoided at a certain point. It is like traveling in a spaceship at near-light-speed; once innocuous particles are now bullets. But in the meantime, make sure your map works properly (triggers don't break, all monsters show up) and you are already ahead of many, and maybe the happy accident of enjoyable super-fast-paced modern maxability will occur... Also be generous with conveniently placed health if your map is challenging and you want it to be run by j4rio- and Ancalagon-tier maxers. Every ambitious maxer will still YOLO the start or indulge in the bare minimum requisite insanity no matter what. Only difference is the number of resets. Which I find unfortunate, because reality and no-health maps, health-deprived stuff in general, can be amazing. 

Being generous with health is a must... one thing that can be said about being generous with health without leaving pallets of medkits everywhere, is to anticipate every upcoming fight where the player theoretically has 1% health... he/she should be able to, with great difficulty, continue the level... the next fight MUST NOT be unbeatable because the player is low on health. I'm strict on this.


If the next room has a bunch of shotgun guys, then somehow after the current fight, there should be some health lying around. Kit placement is crucial here.

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