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Are Secrets Really Necessary

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I love secrets and the exploration aspects of maps. The soulsphere on the pillar in E1M3: Toxin Refinery is probably the first thing I think of when somebody mentions secrets. :D

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They can be looked at in either way

1) They aren't necessary. They are just a waste of time, they don't contribute a ton and they don't need to be in the game.

2) They are necessary. They give you tools for beating level(s) and are a reward for thinking outside of the box in some cases. They need to be in the game.

I agree with 2. Another reason is that secrets are good for replay value. I don't think they need to be there, but they contribute a lot.

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I suppose I like secrets mainly for nostalgic reasons - they were a big thing for me after I completed Doom in 1995 and then spent the next couple of years on and off hunting for secrets.  I also went secret hunting quite a lot in Quake.  I particularly like the ones like the aforementioned E1M3 one with the soulsphere, which give a sense of achievement when I find the secrets that lead to the metaphorical carrot that had been previously dangled in front of me.

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I like puzzles ("secrets" which are required to progress through a level) and secrets (optional hidden areas or goodies), but of course prefer if they are telegraphed/signposted (through a window, misaligned texture, change in spatial pattern, etc., well-hidden switches which are still discoverable after some exploration).

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Big problem with secrets is that they give the player the mentality that they have to hump every wall they see. I guess it's inevitable, for it's an habit promoted by the original levels and thousands of user-made wads. Still, it's good when a mapset communicates that it won't pull those same tricks.

There's no rules as to how many secrets maps should have or how they should be done. It's definitely rewarding to find out that a mapset you played previously has a really good secret that saves you a lot of pain, such as an early SSG in a level you thought didn't have one at all.

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On 2/8/2021 at 4:28 AM, rd. said:

... lots of interesting stuff


In practice, it is the rare map that uses this approach with all of its secrets, because again, it's debatable that simply making things easier is bad. But the existence of this type of secret shows that (free) secrets are far from innately anti-balancing. 

I actually agree with much of the detail of your countering points. Same time, as you say, it's a rare map that opts for these kinds of approaches in a majority of secrets. As to the last part of your post, I think the existence of the free secret more shows that secrets are enjoyable and worthwhile in themselves more than saying anything about their implications for balance.


Still, I think they likely throw balance off in the general case, all though more contingently than I did before reading your post. Each skill level has to accommodate a continuum of player skills, and I suspect secrets help those who need it least whilst leaving those who are already having a hard time with a tougher and possibly more grindy experience (depending on how much high-tier ammo/weaponry is stashed away). 


For all that, I love secrets and they're a key part of the game for me. They're satisfying and solving how to access them is a nice change of pace (poor phrasing given how many rely on speed!) and great counterpoint to Doom's core action gameplay.

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