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Doomsdλy1993

How to Get Good at Enemy Placement?

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I've been making maps for quite a long time but I always have a problem with the enemy placement either there are too many monsters too many strong monsters or just not enough.

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Personally, I design the concept of fight, place monsters according to the idea, and playtest the level. After the playtesting, adjust the monster placements, based on the impression of in-game experience, and playtest the level again. Keep playtesting/adjusting, until I'm satisfied with the combat scenario.

 

If you're looking for some useful, informative tips about placing monsters, I suggest you to read this article.

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3 minutes ago, antares031 said:

Personally, I design the concept of fight, place monsters according to the idea, and playtest the level. After the playtesting, adjust the monster placements, based on the impression of in-game experience, and playtest the level again. Keep playtesting/adjusting, until I'm satisfied with the combat scenario.

 

If you're looking for some useful, informative tips about placing monsters, I suggest you to read this article.

Thanks! Has a lot of good information on there!

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5 minutes ago, antares031 said:

Personally, I design the concept of fight, place monsters according to the idea

 

This. Build around ideas. It is possible to 'place monsters smartly' in an arbitrary fashion with no specific goal, just purely according to their roles and 'niches', and design gameplay by accrual of that approach -- but that has limitations and inadequacies, even if what you are working on isn't combat-centric. 

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Effective monster and object placement starts before you place a single thing. It's a good idea to build the map anticipating gameplay and encounters ahead of time, because depending on the map it can be tougher to change the geometry and accommodate monsters after everything else has been set.

 

Every map has a type of progression, some are a slow build-up and others get to the action almost instantly. Design encounters for the space and atmosphere of the map, this is generally a good starting point. Monsters are placed ideally in a way in which they will present a threat to the player - Pinky demons up close, chaingunners in a distant tower etc. There are certain player behaviors that are universal - the player will generally go towards open, lit up areas, or towards doors, items and other areas of interest. You can use item/monster placement to take advantage of player habits and hopefully create a more engaging level, as opposed to placing things more randomly.

 

By anticipating encounters ahead of time you can save yourself changes later, and possibly inspire ideas as you are building each area. Monsters all have a specific size and an effective attack range, keeping this in mind can help with designing the map. When should the player feel safe? When should they be under threat? Pickups like ammo and health will fall into place once you have the encounters set up, if you can complete the map on UV while having to use most of the resources, chances are that's a good standard to go by.

 

One of the most commonly overlooked factors is to place item pickups in such a way so that the player doesn't have to pick up more than one type at a time. If a box of rockets and a medkit are so close together that the player has to pick up both, this can be counterproductive because the player might not need one resource or the other, potentially wasting health and/or ammo. 

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Understand the strengths and weaknesses of each monster, be it at close/long range, their use in area denial, where flying monsters are effective vs those on the ground, etc etc etc.

 

Understand roughly where each monster fits in the high-low priority tier during combat, and how that tier may change depending on the situation (commonly floor space, health and weaponry available).

 

Combining these two factors should help you determine how players will react in gameplay and therefore allow you more control when mapping in creating whatever kind of gameplay it is you want to create. Of course it is possible to go into massive depth on this subject but i wanted to point out these two core factors that will always apply, and not overwhelm anyone with an insane tl;dr wall of text.

 

As always it is very good practice to study maps you like both ingame and in the editor to try and understand how they work.

Edited by Scotty

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Play some WADs. See what sorts of enemy encounters surprised you or put you in a pinch. Grow from there.

 

Even a handful of lowly Zombiemen or Shotgun Guys can be ruthlessly deadly when paired with the perfect trap.

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Think about how the monster(s) you place will affect the player and other monsters in the map. Ask yourself this:

  • Is this monster likely to threaten the player and cause them to react in some way or is it harmless and does a whole lot of nothing? Imps and Pinkies are often just fodder unless player space is limited. 
  • Is this enemy likely to die infighting other enemies without any effort from the player? This often happens when too many monsters of different types are placed next to each other. i.e. A monster closet opens up with 10 Barons and a Cyber behind them. What usually happens is the player ends up watching some infighting and then cleans up the low-HP Cyber or a few Barons if the Cyber got scratched to death. Try to position different types of enemies apart from each other so that the player needs to put in some effort to make them infight. i.e. Cyber in front and Barons behind the player so they can bait the Cyber into infighting and dodge some rockets instead of the whole thing sorting itself out.
  • Pinkies can make good meatshields for hitscanners, Viles, and other high priority targets. They suck at infighting due to their slow bite and get in the way of your attacks when you're shooting at something threatening.
  • Don't do the thing where a Revenant or Chaingunner insta-pops in your face. It's annoying.

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Some things that spring to mind:

 

  • Don't make room after room of randomly assorted of monsters. Have areas with one monster type, or a few, and a few others with a big mix.
  • Introduce new monsters with purpose, as a means of presenting progression in a map.
  • Mix up monsters on the same floor of the player and projectile monsters on ledges.
  • Don't do cheap behind-the-back monster closets/teleport traps. This makes the player creep boringly throughout the map.
  • Don't spring monster closets/teleport traps every time the play picks up a new weapon/key/powerup. This is bland and predictable.
  • For high-hitpoint monsters try really hard to not create cheap spots the player can abuse to take the monster out with no fear of damage. This includes corners and ledges. Monsters like mancubi, arachnotrons, archviles, and spider masterminds are some of the tougher monsters to place well because of how easily a player can abuse corners with them.
  • If a player can run circles around the monsters and have them all kill each other, chances are it's bad monster placement/map design.
  • Try to make monsters activate before the player comes upon them. Always knowing any monster that will be encountered is going to make a loud roar and announce its presence reduces tension. Active monsters also tend to attack faster than those that activate upon sight of the player.
  • Make sure your monsters can navigate stairs (and any other map geometry) unless you desire otherwise.
  • Reduce the number of doors in your map, or place a few weaker enemies on the other side of a door. Door combat is garbage.
  • Don't have a spot where the player has to repeatedly use a lift and snipe a few enemies at a time who have shuffled on to it.
  • Use damaging floors, crushers, or dark areas to limit the player's movement while providing more area of movement for monsters.

 

All these, of course, shouldn't be followed to a T. A good map designer could ignore these rules and still make a great map. These are the ideas I tend to keep in my mind when I'm mapping, however.

 

Oh, most importantly:

  • Never, ever, ever place revenants in your map. 

 

Edited by NaturalTvventy

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I am a fan of comic book storytelling, sequential narrative, or visual storytelling- whatever you want to call this stuff.  In the opening of The Descent, for example, can be rather bloodless and really emotionally heavy.  Afterwards, a darkening hallway is used to convey a realization.  The strange stuff from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and even Inception I think are really important to narrative in a video game.  And so when I place monsters I try and treat them with as much love as possible and treat them as the best dang zombie extras I have ever had to work with.  And they work for free, just like regular hollywood extras- so its all good.

 

Quips from discord:

 

I feel like i am directing a scene but the player gets to be an actor.

"places! everyone to their places!"

 

I think you just have to allow for slow&methodical and speedrunning. If you cater to both styles to some degree, you will indefinitely have an enjoyable experience at roughly any speed. Its when the player MUST go fast or MUST go slow that things can become rote.

 

but yeah, as a director: its your choice whether you run inside your house or walk slowly... you dont have to have the needed emotions at the time... so long as the blood drenched halls are a shock or significant in some way. And I think the player will automatically assume a behavior that will express their movement speed in game- remorse/anger/shock/etc. An extension of will, so to speak.

 

playwrights often write to allow a variety of emoitions to be expressed by the characters

 

i always want to tell the imps to take bigger strides. they are never in the right place.

in custom wads, they are often scripted to run away from the player

not a hugger i guess

 

Edited by Mk7_Centipede

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Try stuff. See what's fun. Think about why it's fun, try and make it more fun. Play other stuff that's fun, steal their ideas and change them a bit.

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@Doomsdλy1993

 

There are a lot of very good ideas; you would be wise to take heed of them. Ultimately, you'll have to try them and out and see what works for you.

 

I'm somewhat surprised no one posted the link to this tutorial yet (in case you haven't read it yet--it is buried on the last page of Editing Tutorials).

 

5 hours ago, Spectre01 said:

Don't do the thing where a Revenant or Chaingunner insta-pops in your face.

 

Some people love insta-pop monsters. Personally, it's always felt like a cheesy gimmick to me. If you have to rely on it to add challenge to your map, then you need to reassess your monster placement and your encounter design.

 

4 hours ago, NaturalTvventy said:

Don't spring monster closets/teleport traps every time the play picks up a new weapon/key/powerup.

 

This point is very true and can't be stated enough. You can certainly do it every now and then, because it's not a bad thing and is, in fact, a rather classic trap setup in Doom. But if you do it every time, players will not be surprised and their reactions will be, "I wonder what will show up when I pick up the key/chain gun/mega-armor?"

 

Better would be to set players up to expect that, and then subvert their expectations by NOT springing the trap right there. You could always have a monster closet open somewhere else, perhaps along the route they will have to return.

 

5 hours ago, NaturalTvventy said:

Door combat is garbage.

 

Door combat falls into the larger category of camping. Any time the player can hide behind a door, corner, pillar, etc. and pop out, kill a few monsters and pop back into hiding, it slows the game down. Taking advantage of cover is not, in and of itself, a bad thing, but if it can be used to take the teeth out of an encounter, that can be bad. To avoid this, you need to have a reason for the player to not spend too much time hiding behind cover. Some ways (certainly not the only ways) you can do that are: putting the only area of substantial cover in a pain sector, using crushers to control access to areas, having monsters teleport in behind/beside these areas or have monster closets open. The name of the game is flushing the player out and driving them forward.

 

One last thing: not every encounter has to be deadly. It is perfectly OK to put encounters in your map that serve to be on the easier side. These can be there to provide the player with a chance to catch their breath, to relieve the stress of the map, to provide the player with a chance to giddily mow down some monsters, to draw the player forward into another encounter, or to lull the player into a false sense of security (this is mentioned in the tutorial).

 

There's nothing wrong with putting three zombies in a clump right after you pick up the SSG or have a few cacodemons float up out of a pit right after you pick up the rocket launcher or have a baron of hell standing on the other side of a BFG. Every fight doesn't have to be chaingunners on three sides, two hell knights in a 128 x 128 box, a dim room full of spectres with two turreted archviles, etc.

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I have one question that jumped to my head while reading this thread. If you could pick a single map(not iwad one let's say) with "this map have a great and very usefull for teaching monster placement where you can teach thing or two" what map would that be?

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