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Elio AF

Let's build your ideal map.

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No, I don't mean actually making the map on Doom Builder or anything. Let's take a look into your perspectives on what a good map should look like.

Let's begin: 

Would you rather play a linear, or non-linear map?

We all have seen that Romero's maps are rather straight-forward, but manage to confuse you when you play them for the first time. This especially happened to me on E1M3, E1M4, E1M6 and E1M7. Even though they're pretty linear maps, they can mess with you, especially if you're looking for secrets. Let's dive right in on E1M3. Toxin Refinery is generally linear, but it also includes a couple of other areas to visit, and that makes it kinda confusing. Makes you think "Have I gone here? Is this the way back?" like that staircase behind the regular door.

E1M4 gives you 3 paths to choose from, which are somewhat connected to each-other, and then connected to a central room (with the blue key), and there, there are 3-4 other paths to choose from, which can be rather confusing. Even if it is a pretty linear map (follows a simple pattern blue key- blue maze- yellow key- yellow door- exit).

E1M6 has somewhat a wide-open layout, with various confusing areas that look the same. It's not that confusing, and is indeed a very straight-forward map, but is still somewhat confusing.

And last, we have Computer Station. Oh boy, I still have a hard time with this map nowadays. It has a lot of backtracking and that makes it very, very confusing. The fact that it's linear, yet so strangely confusing makes it the favorite map of the episode.

What can we say of Petersen's, like E2M2?

E2M2 is literally non-linear. Has a couple of areas that are not meant to be visited if you're looking for a straight run. It has, if I remember correctly 2 paths to the blue key? E2M6, on the other hand is completely non-linear. You can choose from 3 paths, for the yellow, blue or red key first. E2M5, even though it has a lot of unnecessary areas, it's completely linear. It follows one only simple path towards the exit.

These are the examples. Let's move on.

Would you play a chaotic map, full on monsters or with smart and balanced thing placement?

We've all had moments where a huge cluster of enemies was just charging at you, like those imps on MAP12, the factory. On contrary, MAP08 of TNT (metal, ugh), had rooms full on hitscanners, but also ones that had chaingunners high up, that would just shoot at you from where the f*k? High up. The other map of TNT is just full on enemies (85% of which are hitscanners).

Would you play a short or long map?

A short map is a map with no thought put into smart architecture (if it had 3 keys), as it would mean you would get a key right behind the other key-colored door. If it were a short map with 0-1 keys, it would mean it has right about the perfect amount of an average map. A long map, is what we call a map with all 3 keys hidden in well-placed spots, behind more than just 1 area after the key-colored or regular door. Or, even a map with no keys, but countless switches needed to reveal more areas and even more until you get to the exit. There are even huge maps, but those are too confusing for me to play so I don't really know how their gameplay goes.

Wide-open layouts or concentrated in a single section of the map?

MAP29, the Living end and E4M2, perfect hatred are proof that a map with a wide-open layout can be pretty linear. On contrary, there are maps focused in single small maps with just hallways, such as the earlier maps of doom 2.

Smart architecture or just rooms where you can "rip and tear" monsters?

Wide-open areas or cramped spaces?

Tougher maps or progressive maps?

These are a few of the questions. If you have any other topics you would like to discuss on map design, you can ask questions as a reply and we can just discuss some more based on that question. On map design, I prefer long maps, with a rather tight layout, not wide-open, non-linear and with a balanced thing placement, and smart architecture (I played a wad yesterday and it had me shocked, when I found out I was back in the start room).

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I took the time to write all of this and all I get is:

5 hours ago, Maximum Matt said:

Tons of cyberdemons.


5 hours ago, Dark Pulse said:

100,000 SS Troopers.


And Arch-Viles.

Thank you, thank you, that'll definitely be an improvement and give me mapping ideas.

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19 minutes ago, LadyVader1138 said:

My ideal map is more or less E1M7. It is just a fun map that I always love playing. Something like that will always make me happy.

It's true, E1M7 is literally mapping goals. It's all I've wanted from Doom, it gave me that confusing experience, it was also a tough map, I wasn't used to the difficulty, and also a very atmospheric music. I try to follow to recreate somehow the E1M7 experience when I'm making a KDiTD map.

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My ideal map is a realistic late-XX-early-XXI cities like in Duke Nukem 3D.


In meaning of map progression it's a basically DN3D E1L1 map due to unlinear ways to achive the exit button (over 3 ways!!!).


Eh...My post means "My ideal map is not just 'flat' Doom UAC base/Hell cave". Even E1M7 and E2M2 (which I love) maps are not good enough. Yes, it's related to Doom engine possibilities (or lack of them), but still. The IDEAL map in my opinion is 9000% UDMF features with ACS scripts with looking like "real world".

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personally I like maps that aren't really "hard" in a combat sense but rather they keep you slightly uncomfortable and slightly confused. not really interested in smart, professional, balanced monster placement, it's more engaging sometimes if there's just a cyberdemon. i'd cut most of the fighting unless it plays into a set-piece or the map's gimmick, stodgy gunfiring maps that take forever usually don't deserve it; keep enough wandering combat that you're not just doing arena shooter things but make it wimpy so that it allows you to keep moving; two low-threat arachnotrons in a hallway small enough that you can't run past them is a waste of time unless the map already has pressure from elsewhere. don't be afraid to use brown textures or noisy textures and try not to internalize other people's standards on what makes a pretty map. have ledges i can fall off and not easily get back on top of. give me either the chainsaw or the berserk pack. either hide the backpack in the hardest to understand secret on the map or omit it entirely.


imho. not meaning to overrule anyone else's preferences

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i like surfing on a sea of former humans.


on a serious note i think we all try and create ideal maps already.  i love how doom keeps evolving year after year.  there are always new avenues to create tension and joy in maps.  There really is so much to play after 25 years...  but a varied map with a lot of quirks is ideal to me.  I enjoy dying to some degree.

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Okay, I'll stop being a jokey bastard and be actually constructive. In short you can sum up my philosophy as application of the art of psychology.

  • I gravitate towards Techbase, but I also like a little Shores of Hell here and there. The Hell theme doesn't do as much for me, as it feels a little less "impressive" for lack of a better word. The corruption is what's appealing to me, because Techbase gives you a "familiar" feel, whereas Hell itself is weird and alien. The perversion of the safe into the unsafe is striking.
  • Well-executed traps that you don't see coming, or areas of the map you dread and avoid only to find yourself forced to go down there, are great. E2M6 has both - the false exit and the blinking maze.
  • A good map will take a spin on a concept you've seen before, lull you into a false sense of security, then do something completely unexpected with it. For example, lull you into believing that these little health bonuses scattered in odd places point out a secret once or twice. By the time you're going for your third one, you're expecting the secret - and it opens up a monster closet or springs a crushing ceiling.
  • Rob the player of their sense of hearing. Overload them with monsters grumbling and growling that they can hear, but not see... then make the dark areas dead silent. Or even more ominously, have some lifts going up and down in the distance or whatever. Make them dread that next corner.
  • Make them work for the most precious goodies. That blue armor shouldn't be a piece of cake to get - but if you've been paying attention, if you see me make it a piece of cake for you to get, you know I've got something coming up that you will be needing it for very, very soon. :)

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What I look for in a map is a sense of place, meaning it could be something (a cave, a star port, a forest, hell, Techbase#9, random dungeon-place #5, etc) but more importantly; a sense of adventure.    I want to be on my toes in anticipation of what the map throws at me next.   Did I clear out the area?   Where are these monsters coming from?   How do I get to that place that I can see through these bars?  Will I make it to the next health pack or ammo box?


I want to feel like I'm in a D & D game being run by a rat-bastard DM...unpredictable, hard yet fair with moments of intense hatred aimed at the author for their sadism and afterwards a smug satisfaction; that yeah, I beat your opus (knowing all the while that it was properly tested to get me to said point as I am no Doom god). 


Linear/non-linear doesn't matter so much, so long as effort went into its creation and its fun; though ultimately I prefer non-linear maps like Hellrun, Castevil, and Chimera (map 23 of Akeldama).  


Area sizes within a map are dependent on what the author is trying to achieve; the more important question here, is "did it work?"




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24 minutes ago, joepallai said:

Area sizes within a map are dependent on what the author is trying to achieve; the more important question here, is "did it work?"

This actually sums it up nicely.


24 minutes ago, joepallai said:

I am no Doom god

You mean ZeroMaster?

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   Alright, stream of consciousness (and wall of text) incoming.  I like levels you can't very easily get lost in, that give the player a strong sense of direction, with one single progression path, or maybe two or three that are all mandatory to do but can be done in an order of your choosing.  Give me the backpack early please, two hundred bullets and fifty shells just aren't enough storage space.  Relatively plentiful health and armor (whether medikits and green armors, or supercharges, megaarmors and megaspheres depends on the map), and plentiful ammo of at least one type.  Map authors usually throw shells at you, which is a safe bet, but it's nice to have levels that really let you go wild with the chaingun, people never seem to want to give out enough bullets to use it as the workhorse gun for a level.  I love the super shotgun as much as the next person, it feels amazing, but have you ever played a level that has a few thousand bullets laying around to shred demons with?  I haven't, and I want to.


   Don't make me run unarmed through gauntlets of enemies to get something better than the pistol, arm me before you start trying to kill me, please.  And no heavy-duty platforming or puzzle-solving, I'm really just here to shoot demons.  Don't have me kill the same one or two kinds of enemies for a lot of the map, be sure to have plenty of demonic variety, and don't go sparse with the enemies, a good healthy population with plenty of monster closets and teleport waves is the way to go.  Ambushes, multi-directional assaults and anti-cheese measures are all very welcome.  Slaughter isn't my preference, largely because I'm not actually that good, but having slaughter sections or slaughter finales can be fun, I'd just rather not have it start to finish.  No inescapable damage pits, go ahead and throw in a teleporter or elevator to get me back up, dying with full or nearly full health because you fall off a ledge isn't very fun.  If I'm going to die I'd rather just be killed in battle by demons.


   Visual-wise, have a strong theme that the level follows, with lots of attention to aesthetics and detail.  Being able to look out and see a beautifully detailed area you can't actually go to, that only exists to be pretty, is always a big plus.  A good map should be fun to stroll through with nomonsters on, just looking at the architechture and color and vistas.  It doesn't necessarily have to look or feel anything like a real place, as long as it looks and feels like it has its own internal logic that dictates its form and appearance.  If it actually feels something like a real place, like a base or cavern or temple, then great, but something more abstract can be equally great as long as it's pretty.  I don't like for the entire map to look claustrophobic.  Even if the gameplay *is* claustrophobic,there ought to be at least one spot somewhere where you can look out and see something bigger, even if you don't get to go there.  Oh, but the detail should be designed in such a way that it's not excessively easy to get stuck on it while shotgunning hell knights or something.  Oh, it's also cool if the level features two or more distinct aesthetic styles, with some sections of the level done in one style and some in another, with some distinct dividing point between them, like if you spend the first half journeying through a black void filled with rusty metal structures and walkways that uses keycards to open security doors, and the second half through a black and teal stone cathedral with lots of stained glass that uses skull keys to activate demon sigils that open the path to the exit.


   Level-length-wise, probably something that a UV-maxer can beat in somewhere between two and a half minutes and twelve minutes, would be about my ideal playtime (it'll probably take me three to four times as long, including saving and loading, depending on exactly how hard it is).  And difficulty-wise, ideally I'd like the map to kill me exactly once.  If it gets me to really low health and makes me sweat, good enough, or if it kills me once each in two or three different spots, that's cool (as long as I wasn't lazy about saving, but that's on me).  And, um...I guess that covers it, actually!  So yeah, there you have it.

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My ideal map is Industrial Zone. No, I'm not being sarcastic. Lots of breathing room, but you still have to be cautious of the hordes of hitscanners scattered across the map. I honestly enjoy fighting in large open areas with lots of buildings and hitscanners.

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So I was listening to the recent Bloodshot podcast and he said a few cool things about making maps.




If you dont know about the guy, his work is pretty impressive.  Honestly, Quake 1.5 is not the reason you should know of him, imo.  'MapJamX: Insomnia' showcased his excellent mapping abilities.  "Twisted Strings" is a frighteningly dreary endeavor where you spend your time running from Shamblers in miniature set pieces.  Its final battle is something akin to Doom E1M8 with a pair of Shamblers coming out of slipgates instead of Barons of Hell.  The map leads the player around a complex maze with great visual and sound design.  And my favorite part of the Insomnia Theme is the alternate reality that is eerily similar to Hell in Doom3- bloody wormholes and structures of carcasses and rearranging room geometry.  Oh my!  I, for some reason, associate the dreary mood with Suspended in Dusk.  It is not just an infested base but there is also a bizarre and alien or haunted feeling.  Distinct shapes with moody skies placated by pale white human structures of hubris that are infested with nightmares from another dimension and soaked with eerie electric music that is both haunting and familiar- this sort of thing is not unlike what makes Half-Life click, imo.


He speaks of his method for designing his maps, however, and I find that super interesting.  He comes up with vistas for Teh Ranger to visit.  He outlines room designs & themes and places to visit and generally creates a narrative through visual story telling.  His layout process is actually after he has an idea of what sort of environments he expects to be crafting.  I think this gives his maps a better sense of silent narrative because he already knows where you will be visiting before he has started the layout.


@11:15 they start to talk about map design process:


"you seem like you create an adventure in your map".

its a conscious decision.

aside from quake, HL1 & unreal & hexen series are the best fps games.

the feel of quake... everywhere feels like a different place.

i like to prioritize my maps around a theme or set piece.

how can i keep someone interested in my map the whole level.

aside from encounters and architecture purely, of course.

sometimes i think of something and it works, other times i cannot.

its why i join a jam sometimes but not others.


"do you write out the gameplay script on paper first?"

i only recently started planning that way.

i have an idea in my head and then prototype it in the editor.

egyptian: pyramids and an indianna jones vibe.

i started thinking about the layout after i had traps and quirks figured out.

I like water and i like an obelisk.  and then i recalled that healing pool from quake.

But the opposite- things get angry just from you touching the pool.


"Tell us of the genesis of your hexen mod".

I like hexen 2 in spite of its flaws.

its heavily flawed because of the puzzles/ but they were not just switch hunts.

even if you didnt know the story, you felt connected to it.


In a lot of respects this doesnt sound unlike the making of a movie.  Going off script, crafting scenes, appreciating art in spite of flaws, and touching upon genre classics and iconic monuments.  To the chagrin of many a Doomer, it might not be entirely inadequate to call an Imp and Actor!  Granted, it is a B movie, but the analogy is not lost.  We could consider the Zombie activation sound as 'dialogue'- while it may be indistinguishable it can certainly get Our Hero to look in a certain direction as if someone has called out "doomslayer!"  When every monster in the map has a hypothetical backstory... you cannot hide the narrative. Not that the narrative matters- but it gives contour to the obvious "welcome to hell" motif we all know and love.  Duke Nukem feels a bit like this; Bungie software is pretty explicit in this regard of every enemy having a backstory; it really helped pull the scatterbrain enemies and narrative of Half-Life together when Soldiers/Xen show up suddenly.


This is not the abstract design of Doom1|2 per se.  I think Half-Life and what is I generally discussed is the logical extension of Doom gameplay design.  A world that makes sense is what Doom did so well- even if hell does not make sense.  Whereas in Ultimate Doom the cascade from techbase to heck is incidental by episode, each Doom map has a central idea or theme it is supposedly based around [albeit I have yet to find the Hanger].  There are many ways in which abstract concepts can still fit into a design philosophy that expressly calls for compelling scenery.  I am surprised, for example, how little Doom maps I see copy Half-Life's use of radiation pools that encourage platforming and situational awareness and give tension to otherwise open spaces.


Suspended in Dusk is my flawed inspiration.  My fantasized ideal, if you will.  I am not alone in that regard by any means.  But I think Espi's regulation of the craft inspires different people in different ways.  From what I can tell his gameplay was criticized the most and his visual style was celebrated the most.  But just as how his visual style set the tone for so many other authors, I think too his use of enemies was equally compelling.  His encounters with Archviles are often times extremely stellar.  Its one of the fastest enemies in the game and Espi often exploits its speed to make it a terrifying enemy.  Whereas most other authors will exploit the flame attacks with a pole or reanimated corpses by returning to a former area... Espi chooses to make their rapid advancement the most significant quality of the Archvile.  When much of a level is done from under a doorway and fighting hitscanners, an Archvile can force you to use different corners; in doing so it puts combat variation on an already occurring encounter trope- not unlike a trap but it is a sort of a combat trap.


There are many different ways in which to think about the immersive aspects and appealing qualities of map designing.  Its hard for me not to think Back to Basics e2m5-8 were not put through a rigorous conceptual phase, however.  To craft e2m5 in vanilla just seems crazy to be done intuitively, imo.  Either way, I am mortal.  What Bloodshot says... I mean, just play some of his maps.  I think they are compelling af.


And its not like slaughter and slaughter-lite is ever really going to go away in Doom- the BFG is a gun.  I feel like Doom can do what all the other FPS games can do, plus slaughter.  it has the ability to range in difficulty from hold-your-hand "horseshoe layout is the best thing to ever happen to the FPS" to psychological humiliation in modern mapsets.  A swarm of Revenants is like a warm hug when you are in heck- but just like the door problem there are countless ways to engage a swarm of Revenants.  So one of the scenes you plot out is a swarm of revenants... in some place like a lab.  You can look at them frozen in suspended animation and then as you try and leave the area they all break out and come after you- for example.  That is a scene from a zombie movie.


These are the sorts of things I consider when crafting.  Ever since I was a kid, the world of Doom has been to me alive.  You can take art history classes and still not understand what art is today.  You can make video games today and not know why or who you audience is.  When your audience is coming from an artistic viewpoint then it seems to me to hit them in all the right places of their informed art knowledge- from horror movies to religious symbolism to scientific concepts and architecture and even comedy... If you treat your audience as intelligent you will get an intelligent audience.


The ideal has been the same for thousands of years.



Espi convinced me that the proper e1 boss would be the the Archvile.  You could probably switch all his shotgunners with chaingunners and vice versa and nobody would notice.

Edited by Mk7_Centipede

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My ideal maps are medium-sized, neither too linear nor too non-linear, and focus heavily on the visuals. I just played Viscera on Eviternity and that was stunning, fits the bill perfectly. I don't like long drawn out superslaughter wads that just throw masses of revenants and arch viles against you all the time. 'Slaughter-lite' is okay

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A fun but challenging Medium-Large with tons of secrets and tons optional side areas. (alot of areas to find and explore)

Ideal Difficulty Between Ancient Aliens and Sunlust Levels because I like a bit of challenge and sometimes some slaughterness. 


Preferably the use of the Zdoom or Gzdoom formats (because i love the features in them and I don't really like the limits of vanilla), at minimum I would be fine with at least Boom Format as its limit removing and has a few cool features. 


I like Techbase, City, Ruins, and Castley Themed levels often with outside areas with nice terrain with height variety and maybe some cave / overhang bits.


Maybe some good themed mechanics that fits the theme of the level and maybe some puzzles, because those are cool often.


A good amount of Detail, Vista and Architecture (Valiant, Ancient Aliens, Eviternity, Zpack and Sunlust have levels with good examples)


A Berserk Pack, Fisting Demons is always fun and I think every level should have a Berserk somewhere in it. 


Maybe Some cool Structure or something in distance in the map that takes a while to reach and makes me curious whats there.


A good amount of verticality, height variation and height transitions, I like Verticality.


Suspense, Build up, surprises and good use of monster closets and traps.


Lighting level variety, a variety of dark and light and midlit areas, also good use of lighting effects.


A Nice view at starting area that makes me curious about whats out there in the map (a good example is Map26 of Eviternity which does a really good job at this, with it starting you at a structure at top of a hill overlooking a huge expanse of cool heavenly structures, which really pulls me into to seeing the rest of the map)


Key Teases through windows or on ledges for example to give me an idea of where the key is


Im sorry, if not the most detailed and in depth, its often hard to explain what I like about something.


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I wanted to start a topic like that, out of curiosity.

For me, it's all about the atmosphere. I don't mind challenging combat, and I don't mind when it's a breeze. I want to feel something while playing - whether positive or negative. I think that maps which achieve that effect combine good visuals, music and some kind of a "story" behind the map/campaign. Doom 1 is good in that regard - it's meaningful in it's journey to hell, and mentally exhausting in a good way. Ancient Aliens is light, fun and arcade'y, though difficult combat can be distracting from it's excellent theme and aesthetics. I've only played ~10-20 wads until now, but the one I liked the most is 5till L1 Complex by @Lainos. Personal award for the crushing feeling of loneliness and sadness.

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