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Retro Dino

How do I unlock my creative potential? - Yes, this is about Doom.

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Just about every WAD I've made has been inspired on or based on something else. (or I just remake someone's WAD, with permission of course.) The only WAD's I've made that aren't based on something are my first WADS. (Also a small section in a megawad). I can sit here all day and try to think of maps, but I always draw a blank. There's also so many gameplay mechanics and stuff that I feel like are blocking me. I try to scroll through the forums for inspiration, but then I get bummed out seeing everyone's awesome WAD's. I sometimes feel like I have to compete with others WADS or mine won't be good enough, or that I have a time crunch and that I need to push WADS out as fast as possible. Then I start to think "What's the point, nobody play's my WADS anyways." or "My WAD's are shit anyways." I feel like my creativity has been drained. I want to be more creative and come up with my ideas, but I just can't. I even try to just draw some stuff out in Ultimate Doom Builder, but then I don't like it, so then I get discouraged. I also try to literally draw my maps on some paper, but I always end up with about the same idea. I've tried playing WADS for ideas, but again I just come up with something that's inspired by something else. I know just about everything is inspired by something, but I want to make my own WAD without having to look at other WADS. I want to unlock my creative potential, but I just don't know how. I'm honestly getting pretty discouraged. I know this is just about WADS, but it's the only thing I feel like I'm actually decent at, so I take some pride in it. 

EDIT: I have been wanting to work on a MegaWAD, but I want to use custom sprites, textures, music, etc. I don't have a clue how to do any of that. I've dug around to see how I can get this stuff, but I came up empty handed. I'd really need a team to help work on it. Again, it's something that's just discouraging to me. I only bring this up because the Idea is inspired on something, but the level design and stuff would all be on me.

Edited by Retro Dino

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Although I'm fairly new to serious WAD-making, I have absolutely felt the same way, both with regards to making Doom levels and in other creative pursuits.  It's a dangerous mindset to get stuck in - it's ironic that the fear of not being creative enough can so easily stifle one's creativity.  There's nothing wrong with your work being inspired by or based on something else - nihil novi sub sole, after all, and as much as people talk big about originality in works of art (yes, making Doom levels is art), the true thing of value is iteration: building on existing works.  You needn't come up with entirely new ideas to be creative - that's too much to reasonably ask of anyone, I think.  All any artist does is combine bits and pieces of old ideas in new ways.  Heck, I just made what is quite possibly my most derivative WAD to date.  It borrows heavily from several DOOM 1 IWAD maps.  E1M2's computer maze, E2M3's StarX room, and E2M7's general flow all are present in spirit in my map.  Yet, it's also the map I'm most proud of so far.  The more you borrow ideas from other maps, the more you'll understand those ideas, and the more you'll be able to do new and interesting things with those ideas.  So don't be afraid of making something that's inspired by someone else's work, because that's simply how creativity works.  As long as you aren't copying entire maps wholesale, you're good.  Don't try to make something 100% original; try to make something inspired by 2 or 3 existing works, and the rest will fall into place.

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I've only been doing this six months and haven't released anything of note, but here's some advice nonetheless:

 

Starting a new creative hobby is always hard.  For a while, there's going to be a large gap between what you want to create and what you're currently able to make with a beginner skill set.  You're going to realize your work is subpar.  With so many people putting out beautiful, engaging maps in the Doom community, it's understandable to feel discouraged.  The important thing to remember is that you don't have to compete with the best.  No one is expecting that of you.  For every new mapper who drops something seriously impressive as their first map, there's way more who have to slowly grind their way to being decent.  Many people who make good maps now started out making bad ones.  There's plenty of Cacoward winners whose early output was mediocre or uninteresting.

 

People like to say "keep mapping" and it's good advice but it's incomplete.  You also have to listen to criticism, decide if/how to apply it to your work, and make changes to your process.  It's not an easy thing to do.  It takes time.  But most people who are successful at anything creative have figured out how to do this to some degree.

 

You ought to think more about what kind of maps you want to make and why.  Think about what excites you about Doom, or games in general, and try to convey those things in a map--key word being try here, it's fine to fail!  If you're feeling overwhelmed by possibilities, then keep things simple.  Focus on one or two things only.  Everyone has something to contribute and no one's expecting great work from a beginner.  They're just expecting you to keep at it and slowly improve, bit by bit, just like them.

 

Here's some resources to help with your specific requests:
https://doomwiki.org/wiki/Adding_custom_music
https://doomwiki.org/wiki/Adding_custom_textures
http://slade.mancubus.net/index.php?page=wiki&wikipage=How-to-Import-Textures
https://doomwiki.org/wiki/Adding_custom_sprites
Doomkid video about custom sprites and stuff

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Great advice in these replies. All of that is very true and important.

11 hours ago, Orcsbreath said:

So don't be afraid of making something that's inspired by someone else's work

11 hours ago, Salmon said:

try to convey those things in a map--key word being try here, it's fine to fail!

 

I'll echo a bit of what was said and then add my own input.

Absolutely do not be worried about the idea of making something that's been done before. Personally I believe it's a toxicity inherent in the arts that originality is so highly sought after, especially for amateurs. When you've become confident in your ability to make things, you can start going after what you want, not before. Here's a thought experiment: Tutorials. Are you ever fully satisfied after watching one? Do you feel like you've made a totally original and wonderful work on your own? Of course not! You think, "Alright, now's my time to do my own thing with this knowledge." Right? But what's the point of a tutorial? To teach you how things work. To show you possibilities. That's what I feel should be the takeaway when referencing others' work. Personally, I'm always blown away by all of the unique and interesting ideas that already exist, and I see them as flavorings to be added. You can't possibly be expected to be the source for every great and original idea that appears, so don't put pressure like that on yourself! I can say with 95% certainty that every great idea was inspired by one before it and probably appropriated much of that original idea. After all, there is a sort of satisfaction in the consumer of your art when they see something they recognize and see it used again (I'm sure there's a fancy word for this but it's escaping me atm). Maybe not 100% the way it was first done, but there's nothing wrong with reusing good ideas that work.

You'll notice I quoted people but haven't really elaborated on those quotes yet. What they're getting at is the fear of failure. It's a mega-complicated topic, most of which is outside the scope of this thread. What I will say is that as far as mapping goes, the fear of failure relates back to some of the things you even mentioned and more that I'll get into and make a small assumption about. Measuring up to the greats and to people's work that you admire is a big one. Maybe you hadn't thought about this before consciously, but the desire to "make a name" for yourself and to have a bit of recognition in the community is a common feeling. Most people feel that way at some point and really desire that. What isn't fine is when those desires start to affect the way you create.

 

This is a concept I refer to as "The Character" when applied to mapping and online interactions. The concept in general in the idea of the ego, not in derogatory terms to say that you have a big head, but the philosophical concept of your sense of worth. Your Character is your online persona. It's the personality you adopt online along with all of your comments, posts, reactions, etc. It's the abstract method by which you ascribe meaning and attach any accolades and recognition you receive online. The existential philosophers refer to this concept of self-identity as authenticity. This happens and is a totally natural process because most of us never meet the people we talk to. Even if we do, we're still hours or even worlds apart. What we interact with are these strange names and avatars we think represent people. It becomes an issue when our Character becomes who we actually are and affects our value systems, corrupting our inner authenticity.

That's all weird philosophical mumbo jumbo, but what the hell am I getting at?

 

The most baseline and important thing I think I could offer to the conversation is to give all of the credit to yourself when you map or do anything creative online. That sounds like a "duh", but really think about it. How do you feel when you make something? Were you making it, or were you playing the role of your Character, expecting them to receive this praise in your place and striving for some abstract "recognition"? So long as you stay true to yourself and remember who you are and the reasons you think mapping is fun in the first place, you'll make stuff that you want to make and it will push you to keep getting better. Some of that will be for the recognition you will receive, but most of it should be because you're doing something you enjoy. You're the person who's actually sitting down to make the thing. Take stock of who you are and do it for fun. That's what it's all about.

Edited by SiMpLeToNiUm

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Well, I was gonna come in here and say something like "there's nothing new under the sun; whatever you make will always feel like stolen ideas to some degree; just enjoy the journey."

 

And then I read @SiMpLeToNiUm

's advice and realised it's been said a lot more fully than I could have said it.

 

So instead... This video is some of the most valuable artistic advice I've seen. It's universal. Coming from a guy who's pretty much a master of his field:

 

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All my work is derivative of others' creations. I'm not so sure I believe in a truly original work. We live in an idea ecosystem, and our minds are the breeding grounds. I've only taken map concepts from various inspirations, mixed them up in my mind, and produced something newish with various parts from each inspiration.

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I agree with the wise words already spoken (particularly in @SiMpLeToNiUm's eloquent, powerful post). In essence, there is nothing original under the sun and fretting about 'originality' is a waste of time.

 

That is not to say you should not try to create a unique style, but in order to do that you need to understand what it is you want to achieve. Using myself as an example, my personal ambition is to create a megawad combining the strong visual story-telling of wads like the Ultimate Doom, No End In Sight or Alien Vendetta with a more approachable, fluid, combat-oriented style of gameplay, inspired by the likes of Valiant, Struggle or Return to Hadron. From an aesthetic perspective, I wish to take a fairly minimalist approach, with abstract but distinct architecture, high-contrast lighting, mostly vanilla texturing and non-orthagonal, flowing geometry (a la Xaser). And I'll shamelessly use IWAD music, because that's what I like.

 

As you can see, I have identified the elements of my favourite wads that I find most desirable, and used that as a base to conjure up something new (in theory, anyway. Sloth is my deadly sin!). That is just my process, though, and yours may be different.

 

16 hours ago, Retro Dino said:

I know this is just about WADS, but it's the only thing I feel like I'm actually decent at, so I take some pride in it. 

There is no 'just' about it. Your passions are your passions, don't belittle them. Doom mapping is an artform, and anyone who says otherwise is a conceited fuck. You are right to take pride in your work, whatever it may be.

 

16 hours ago, Retro Dino said:

EDIT: I have been wanting to work on a MegaWAD, but I want to use custom sprites, textures, music, etc. I don't have a clue how to do any of that. I've dug around to see how I can get this stuff, but I came up empty handed.

For these, try looking at Realm667's repositories. There are hundreds of useful assets on that site, which may be helpful. For music, @Jimmy's site is always a good place to start. The man's an excellent musician, and many of his midis are free for anyone to use! What a madlad.

 

2 hours ago, NaturalTvventy said:

All my work is derivative of others' creations. I'm not so sure I believe in a truly original work. We live in an idea ecosystem, and our minds are the breeding grounds. I've only taken map concepts from various inspirations, mixed them up in my mind, and produced something newish with various parts from each inspiration.

I am very glad to hear this from the dude who inspired me to map seriously in the first place. If I ever get around to making that damn megawad, its a good bet that there'll be little bits of NEIS scattered throughout ;)

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Thank you all for responding. I took a few days off of making WADs. I came up with an idea that I enjoy, that is inspired by a game. I think one of my main problems is that I want to be a great known map maker. I want to be known in the DOOM community. I'm looking at the top of the staircase, and I'm not focusing on my next step. Again, thank you guys for all of your help. I'm taking all of your advice into careful consideration.  

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