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Mk7_Centipede

blog: the door problem of combat design

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https://andrewyoderdesign.blog/2019/08/04/the-door-problem-of-combat-design/

 

I think this article is on point.  i lose sleep over doorways and room designs. GF is literally telling me about how i rant on the pillow about first map impressions rn.  I wouldnt know what to add to this.  Health/armor bonuses can be breadcrumbs and lead/point the player in a direction?  Good blog though!

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Posted (edited)

Just knock a couple walls down and don't design shitty flat arenas. IMO this guy is be getting way more abstract and theoretical with this than he needs to be. 

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Or just, y'know, force him to move forward a bit before you spring the monsters and make the door shut behind him so he can't just back the hell up.

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The key takeaway here, for me, is that more interesting map design leads to a greater playing experience. Room-door-room-door layouts are easy to make, but less engaging to play through. Trapping players in simple arenas isn't much of a bigger step up, but doing a compound, varied layout for a room changes everything. His last example had stairs, a ledge, pillars, low walls and the potential for ambushes, plus it was entered through an interesting means. The drop-into-a-room in particular made me smirk, as Hank Leukart was advising things like that 20-odd years ago.

 

This was one of the strengths of Doom 2016, where each "arena battle" tended to take place in an interconnected space of multiple rooms, or across ledges, pits and walkways in an "open area" (in quotes because they often felt difficult to traverse in a straight line). You rarely just fought on one flat plane, circle strafing around targets that you herded into the middle. 

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Imo there is no door problem. It is just people taking advantage of a map feature that is very rarely punished. You can use damaging floors, crushers, elevators, monsters especially hard to hit ones, teleporters, teleporting barrels, lights going off, archviles, lost souls, revs, chaingunners, barons and keyed doors shutting down to force people out of a specific area if you want to. And those are just the things that can be done in vanilla.

 

You can also go the other approach. Bait the player in with stuff that'll become unreachable if they take too long. Want the Plasma Rifle? Well better hurry up before the crusher reaches it. Want the invulnerability sphere? Well the expanding lava around it sure will kill you if it gets too big. Also square rooms with nothing interesting in them suck for interesting combat, nothing new here.

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I mean, maybe the ideas in the article aren't revolutionary or new, but there is still room for articles which explain the basic science of level design to newbies and experienced designers alike. In my case, turning all this stuff over in my head again reminded me of some mapping possibilities I technically knew existed but often forget to employ. For newbies, this is an excellent launchpad into designing engaging encounters in your doom maps.

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I conform to doors.

 

In my vision doors represent order and logic, doors are a joiner between rooms and sections that make sense, but more than that doors have always had a more psychological and artistic value to me.

 

Doors have always been my vision of order, organization, everywhere I have ever been with any semblance of order has had doors for every room, they feel very human and man made, purposeful in displaying signs of civilization.

 

I want more demonic or rundown areas, I take away doors, except in demonic temples, they are areas of worship and most (un)hallowed so they have doors.

 

I can't really explain it, but doors are important to me in designing my work and I will gladly sacrifice gameplay for the inclusion of them.

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57 minutes ago, mrthejoshmon said:

I conform to doors.

 

In my vision doors represent order and logic, doors are a joiner between rooms and sections that make sense, but more than that doors have always had a more psychological and artistic value to me.

 

Doors have always been my vision of order, organization, everywhere I have ever been with any semblance of order has had doors for every room, they feel very human and man made, purposeful in displaying signs of civilization.

 

I want more demonic or rundown areas, I take away doors, except in demonic temples, they are areas of worship and most (un)hallowed so they have doors.

 

I can't really explain it, but doors are important to me in designing my work and I will gladly sacrifice gameplay for the inclusion of them.

 

Fair enough, though I think you still have some options. The way Doom's doors work isn't necessarily logical or orderly, and there are plenty of human-made thresholds in architecture that don't have doors. Having groups of doors that open via switches, or doors that the player opens manually but always stay open, are ways of at least partially mitigating the problems that doors can create. You can also create open thresholds that have already open doors in them, which in Doom's case would usually be represented by having a small amount of door peeking down from the top of the doorway. These are just ideas -- every situation calls for different things, and sometimes doors serve a useful purpose, most often key locks, combat lock-ins, temporary sight blocking, or just passively encouraging a certain flow or risk management within an area by making one path take more readily accessible than another (i.e., if you're running from an Arch-Vile and you see an open doorway and a closed door, you're going to take the open path).

 

As anotak mentioned in another conversation, the "door problem" described in the article is actually created by thresholds or doorways rather than doors themselves, and the example situation doesn't even have a door in it. It's more about how one room flows into the next. If you make the player open a door and then they still have a reason to go into a room, or the enemies aren't visible yet, then the door doesn't create a conflict, or at least not as much of a conflict. However, if the player knows the door is going to close behind them after five seconds because that's how all your doors work, and potentially block a retreat, then they're going to proceed with more hesitation.

 

You don't have to do anything, of course, but it's best to have a full bag of tricks.

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Posted (edited)

I usually have three ways to solve these scenaries if you don't want to change the layout:

 

1 - Keep the threat at low level: If door fights are boring, then make it as fast as possible without delaying the player progress, therefore they will stop being boring.

2 - Lure the player in before throwing him into a fight, so he's discouraged to go back unless he really wants. Some light lockdown might also help for the player to dive in. (for example, a pool of pain-sector in the entrance, or a lift). Sometimes adding covers options ahead the chokepoint is enough for the player to duck out.

3 - Use both.

 

Of course, I'm talking about an isolated arena where you have only 1 entrance and 1 exit. In Doom levels, which has lots of interconnectivity and almost no-doors to keep the pacing, it's a lot harder for the player to know he's into an arena, which is good as a designer because you can try different ways to surprise him and create engaging situations.

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