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Alexagon

How do people come up with map layouts?

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I'm trying to design my own small mapset but I am struggling heavily with coming up with map layouts. I have the overall theme down and what I want from it, but I just cannot get down the specifics of the levels. I tried sketching out a layout but got stuck on the first level and already just didn't know what to do. 

 

Is something like this just not in the cards for me if I'm struggling like this already? 

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I have some experience with mapping but no expert by any means. However I can totally relate to what you're experiencing.

 

The most common response is to play other wads for inspiration. Just god mode, no clip, map reveal and look at their rooms / layouts.

 

When I face this conundrum I tend to think of vertical options. If the room is a basic rectangle, maybe create a ramp to a higher level and go from there. Also consider looping, like connecting the room to another for a purpose (unique pickup, shortcut to backtracked locked door, secret etc).

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I don't give much thought to the overall map layout, but I do try to give most of my rooms multiple exits (if I'm not building a large outdoor area). Back in the 90s, I saw this referred to as the "webbing technique", where you give yourself two loose ends for every new room you make, then tie most of it back together again to make an open layout, with some dead-ends to house objectives and secrets.

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One thing you could try is to imagine you are creating a deathmatch level. If you create a layout where rooms are connected in multiple and varying ways and it is fun to run around and explore with no monsters it should make a nice base for a single player layout.

 

Another thing to try is think of levels you like the layout of and then reduce the level to layout or mapflow only, applying this roughly to your own map theme. E.G. I like how in E1M2 there is a large hub area to start in, there are two ways to get to the first key and then the locked door is a new area of it's own. You can make a level that meets those basic rules but will not otherwise resemble E1M2 at all.

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1 hour ago, Alexagon said:

I'm trying to design my own small mapset but I am struggling heavily with coming up with map layouts. I have the overall theme down and what I want from it, but I just cannot get down the specifics of the levels. I tried sketching out a layout but got stuck on the first level and already just didn't know what to do. 

 

Is something like this just not in the cards for me if I'm struggling like this already? 

One advice i have read here which i found rather useful - Visualize your map by drawing it on paper. You will need some  big paper for it but you instantly get a better way of perspective and structure, i feel.

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For me it's always easiest to start from an idea. This could be anything ranging from a texture theme, to a gameplay element, to simply a place where the map is supposed to be located.

 

Let's say you start with a simple gameplay idea like "Punching an Archvile". Okay great, now you've got something you can start from, because if you continue this little idea, you will invariably think: "Okay, but then I need cover to hide from this guy." which means you'll need some pillars. At this point the location could probably be a "Prison Dungeon" from which you want to escape, since you only have your fists. Since punching an Archvile can be tedious / boring / too easy, why not also throw some pinkies in there, et voila, you are starting on your map with kind of a clear goal. Climb yourself from room to room (okay, now that the Archie is dead, what lies beyond the prison? Where's freedom / the exit?, etc.) and at one point you should theoretically have something like a rough map. More ideas will surely follow when you test your map or even let others test.

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I think we all struggle at level design and probably some of us more than others. I know that sometimes I do. It can be hard to just get started, but if you have the desire to map, you'll figure it out.

 

1 hour ago, Redneckerz said:

One advice i have read here which i found rather useful - Visualize your map by drawing it on paper. You will need some  big paper for it but you instantly get a better way of perspective and structure, i feel.

 

Well Alexagon did say he tried sketching. To add to that, I suggest graph paper since you're working on a grid like you would in an editor and you can always tape papers together if you need to. I haven't drawn my levels on paper in ages, tho now I'm thinking to get back into that. Way back in the late 90's, before I got my hands on DoomCad in 99 and got myself on the internet, I used to draw levels on graph paper. It's a good exercise and you can do it anywhere.

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I always start with some basic idea (Elevator in the center of the map, big cave, techbase in mountains, hellish keep slaughter,...), but then I just start putting rooms together. I mostly don't draw any layout on paper, or I don't even have any general view of layout in my mind. I just start to draw and during the drawing, new layout ideas are popping up. Sometimes I am surprised, how the map works in the end. Also this is the reason my layouts are quite compact and areas stick together closely like puzzle. :)
It is kind of relaxing creative activity for me. Someone do sculptures, or painting, or write, or compose music in their free time, I do doom maps. Deal with it! My wife did. :D

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I remember seeing a thread one day where the dude suggested creating some landmarks for your map first (Some big elevator, some tower, or whatever) and then, build arround it. That's not my personnal approach (and my approach is prob not suited for everyone) but I think it's a neat way of going at things.

 

Personally, I tend to have a rough idea of what the setting of the map should be (some space station, some castle, etc...) and then, I just go along the way.

 

It's not the best approach by far but, it works for me as I can visualise what a room will look like in my head before going at it. Sometimes, obviously, you get out of ideas but, usually, they come back heh

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Whenever i want to make a layout, i do some prototype sketches of the map before adding more on to it throughout the cycle.

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I've tried many attempts and I think the one that works best is James Paddocks' technique, or at least the one I've seen in a tutorial from him.

 

I set myself a timer for 10-15 minutes and stop drawing when the time runs out. It allows you to think, but not too much so that you don't have to go through mapping block because of an excess of perfectionism.

 

After that, I use a little more time to rework the layout a bit.

Also, I strongly recommend what elend said. Before starting any layout, it's always good to write down your ideas in words.

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Well, I just make some random rooms and then start to expand. I try to start with something symmetrical. Two rooms, two corridors, etc. 

 

Sometimes a create and delete some rooms, sometimes I make some random stuff with decorations and monster placement and see how it's come in the game. If I liked it, than ok. If not, than starts again. Try and error. 

I think that the gameplay it's more important, in my opinion. 

And I try to mantain the "done is better than perfect" mindset.  

 

But I'm newbie, so... 

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Another "popular" method, at least for a while, was to use a game/map name generator and working around the concept. By going somewhat in reverse, the example above might have been inspired by a generated name such as "Extreme Punching of the Archvile in somebody's mother's basement".

 

There was at least one map (Revenant Battlefield: Slaying Daredevils) created in such a way.

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Personally to me the first thing i do is try to build a few rooms and establish the general theme or feel of the map along with a general idea of what the end map is gonna be (something like defining ideas like is it an open level?, is it supposed to be a base? or is it supposed to have a certain 'gimmick' or idea?)

After that it's all improvisation for me, there's a lot of people that do some planning and have a defined idea of how the level is gonna be (lots of people use pen and paper to sketch some areas), but personally that doesn't work for me. After establishing a room or 2 with the general feel or idea for the map, what follows for me is to build some areas towards a direction (like north, or south), play with room shapes (since having just square shaped rooms is boring) until something interesting comes up that looks fun to play (unless it's a big fight or setpiece, then it kinda really requires planing and testing to ensure things work the way they should). While adding those sections i look for areas to connect even if they are far away (this corridor on the north could connect back to that outdoor area west... or something like that) and i start building to connect those (it's kinda like building in circles, and it leads to the map feeling interconnected). This goes on until i figure how the overall map flows (by this i mean what routes you need to take to go to the exit) and when im finished, i end up with a neat interconnected layout.

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Greetings,

I would try and make a map layout that is very interconnected. For instance you can see later areas of a map via a window or It could also be an elevator that connects the early and later areas of a map. It was a feature in the Dark souls franchise that made exploration very interesting.

 

I would focus on just making the basic layout first just as simple rectangular rooms and then go back to polish it up later. For example build an outdoor area and adding features such as a fountain later on.

 

Most important: I would recommend drawing on paper first. I feel it's faster to draw a basic sketch and see if something works well in your map than making it in the editor.

 

I hope this helps,

Lodestar

 

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I usually have a graph in my head regarding what rooms should connect. And then drawing the rooms.

Early on I tried drawing it on paper but it didn't do me any good.

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I usually have a large central area that I build the map around (often, an outdoor area with separate buildings, other times a 'courtyard' type area that is encircled by structures, or (rarely) a collection of hub rooms). Usually this isn't too fleshed out to start but I will add loops around the periphery using roughly the following steps:

 

1) add an objective for the player to the central area (a weapon or powerup the player clearly needs, a locked door, or something that needs to be remotely activated, like a platform or stair that can be raised, or walls that can be lowered)

2) add the solution to that objective (the key or switch) in such a way that it is also visible (or hopefully at least obvious) from the central area

3) build a loop to allow access from the central area to 2) (hopefully quick access to 1) as well)

 

Repeat steps 1-3 but optionally make access dependent on completing a previous loop.

 

The reason I like to place the objectives/solutions before building any new areas is because it lets me concentrate on how I am reusing the central space of the map. This approach also provides clear milestones (another loop done! time to figure out the next one, etc) which helps keep me motivated.

 

As I reread this post I realize I'm probably talking about "flow" more than "layout", but TBH I have a hard time distinguishing the two concepts.

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I start with as detailed a sketch as possible; writing down theme, texture usage, monster types, weapons, and power ups I intend to use for the level with the initial ideas for the map's layout.   Once I've finished making the initial areas it becomes an iterative process of constant testing out new ideas and tweaks to said ideas until I'm satisfied that they worked.   

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1 hour ago, skillsaw said:

As I reread this post I realize I'm probably talking about "flow" more than "layout", but TBH I have a hard time distinguishing the two concepts.

 

I think this probably has a lot to do with why your maps are, by and large, incredibly satisfying to play.

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As for me, I have a list of interesting ideas that I get during the day, be by seeing a screenshot or something random. The ideas are broad and simple, for example:

 

Green "foliage" texture + Wires and Pipes + Outdoor + Circular gardens.

 

Then I start drawing the thing on the paper. I usually don't care that much about the scale, texture or detailed monster placement because if I do I get mappers block and I'm not able to keep going.

 

So usually I start with the initial area, if I want a hot start or something more climatic. Also, I want the initial area to be really remarkable, so I imagine the beginning to be something that catch the players attention.

 

For example, with the concept above, I can imagine some sort of hot start in the circular gardens where the player has to run and find their weapons, while some turreted monsters give constant pressure, and an entrance to some sort of building after he gets a key somewhere in the gardens. The building, example, can be some sort of hub that connects to 2 other gardens areas, which one has an additional key and other the exit which the key is required.

 

After drawing the thing on the paper, then it's time to open Doom Builder and copying the layout with loose scale to the map editor. This time the scale will be more important, although I take some freedom because later when I'm placing monsters, things can change during the playtest phase.

 

Also, if I see some area that might work better in a different way, it's easier to revise the layout in that stage instead of having to think about everything when messing up things with Doom Builder.

 

Another thing that helps me too is to think of the rule of 3. Some maps can have a concept that might be explored more than once and you can think of variations of that concept 3 times (more than that and it might get repetitive). In Ozônia for example, I used that in Hexagons map (3 areas with hexagons), Skullfaces (3 areas with skullshapes) and the map that you see silent archvilles 3 times, for example.

Edited by Deadwing

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In chronological order:

 

DV was an ad-hoc modified version of Squares.wad

@Csonicgo uncovered my fraud https://www.doomworld.com/php/topstory.php?id=3183

dv-zero01.gif.159b0b562344a91e9a51ef35d29e9682.gif

 

DVII First Edition, MAP25 The Unholy Cathedral was derived from a blueprint of the Notre Dame of Paris

image.png.2c22b6d84010b8e3bc4e1a75690dded6.png

 

DVII Second Edition, MAP01 is just a transformation of Romero's E1M1 into polar coordinates, then slapped onto the moon.

image.png.7dab76c1dbe3aeec098b17eff639df7d.png

 

What I lack in creativity, I make up for in copycatting.

Don't get me started on DVII's Stargate map...

 

Edited by Doom Marine

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21 hours ago, Doom Marine said:

Don't get me started on DVII's Stargate map...

 

please do start on this, I am really curious to hear it

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Well, personally I often design a map and have no idea what I'm doing.

 

I just keep adding onto my original sector with another interesting sector. Then add another interesting sector onto that. Then simply copy and repeat this process many, many times. Then once you have a series of connected interesting areas, add detailing as required. This is probably the worst way of level design but it's a completely organic process of the moment.

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