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Roofi

How to deal with severe lack of focus as a mapper?

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Hello to all!

 

I'm doing this support thread about a problem that seems to affect not only me. In fact it is a variant of the usual "Mapping block". 

 

However, the problem I have is not the lack of ideas, but the impossibility to stay focused on one idea. The consequence is that despite a certain amount of time spent on doombuilder, 99% of my work represents the beginnings of maps that never got off the ground. 

 

I've done big and small maps, but it's been almost a year since I've been going through the worst mapping block I've ever had. However, I'm not short of ideas, I've got lots of ideas that could be very cool to realize. However, it only takes one hour of mapping for me to want to make another map and abandon the idea I wanted to make.

 

Making a map is almost impossible in this state, and I'm not even talking about creating a multi-level wads.

 

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Probably not the same, but as mapping is a creative work, i can relate to it somehow as a writer and painter.

What you describe is something that happened to me a lot, too.
And when i started writing something and then suddenly i feel the urges to work on another thing, its just that i am feeling too anxious.

When axiety strucks, its almost impossible to work as you will be jumping from one idea to another.

Thats was a good time for me as i was kinda able to work on multiple novels at the same time, but then i realice that non of them are complete and need serious rehashing to be usable.

 

I always tried to prepare myself things out to have a lot of spare time to delve on my writing and work without interruptions, but since life become more complicated, the interruptions are always there now, IRL problems or something that may be bothering you inside your mind. 

So, after struggling with it for long time, i realice that the only way to fight the anxiety it is know how many time left i have before i get distracted.

As the time you stay focused its not always the same, the only way i found to still being able to work was to change my method.
Instead of seeking time to work, i worked on something withing the time i had.

So instead of writing novels, i started writing poems.

Poems can be conceptually far denser than a novel, but just being wrote on a few verses.

So instead of working on my pc writing for hours, i just taked a sheet of paper and wrote a poem until the sheet is complete from top to bottom.

Sometimes i can work an idea until its finished, sometimes not, but when it is finished completely, the sense of achievement is granted, and thus, little by little, i was able to come back to work focused for more and more time.

 

TL;DR as an analogy, try working outside of the builder first, for example, creating a complete map on a paper sheet, try something short first so it will be easier to stay focused as you know you can complete it fast, nothing too complex or your mind will try something else and get distracted. You need to come back to the basics. Once its complete, let your creativity rest.

Then when you want to map, try that map on the paper sheet, as it is short and pretty much you have it completely designed on the sheet, you will make it really fast. Probably you will change it a little from the map on the sheet, but don't worry, if you complete it, yor work that day is done.

 

What you are experiencing is probably that you feel that your maps are not that good or are not appreciated as they should.

Your maps are really good, pal!

So its time you convice yourself of it.

Try this method for a few weeks.

This way i worked on a complete book of poetry on just two months.

 

So if you persevere at making things short and without much complexity, you will probably make something worth.

The important is that you feel that you seized the day.

That will help you out from the mapping block i think.

 

Hope this help, pal!

 

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P41R47 makes a great point about doing shorter maps, and even if you've already attempted smaller maps without success, maybe you just gotta try scaling down even further.

 

This may be a no-brainer to most, but I've found that having a good 'background distraction' helps in keeping myself focused on the mapping task at hand, and makes it less likely for me to get distracted by unrelated things that otherwise might be creeping up at the back of my mind.
As for the background distraction, it can be basically anything you can listen to, music, songs, podcasts, twitch streams, letsplays, washing machine reviews, and so forth. If you have already tried one or two of these, consider trying something that you didn't yet.

 

2 hours ago, Roofi said:

The consequence is that despite a certain amount of time spent on doombuilder, 99% of my work represents the beginnings of maps that never got off the ground. 

 

However, it only takes one hour of mapping for me to want to make another map and abandon the idea I wanted to make.

Do you still have copies of these maps that never got properly started?

This is just an idea: You could try to make a some kind of frankenstein map where you would stitch together all(or some) of the unfinished map beginnings into one big jumbled, but functional map. While it most likely wouldn't be your most ambitious work, it could perhaps still be fun to work with.

 

My third suggestion would be perhaps trying to find someone you can map together with or to start a community project where you could trade your map with another persons map whenever you run out of motivation or creative drive to work on your current map.

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I have this problem sometimes (and without the benefit of your long list of successful projects.)  I have a little system to deal with it:

 

If I want to give up on a project/map and move onto something else, I make myself do an "autopsy" first.  I ask myself questions like:  Why don't I want to work on this anymore?  Do I just need a break or is the map actually bad for [x, y, z] reasons?  Would fixing problems [x, y, z] be a worthwhile use of my spare time?

 

Generally, I need good answers with concrete examples to these questions to feel like I have a good reason to quit the map.  Usually I need to feel there's something flawed in the overall geometry that couldn't be fixed through tweaks.  Stuff like theming, texturing, and thing placement is more easily fixed--as long as I actually feel like using my time to do those things.

 

This process isn't for anyone (it's always good to remember mapping is just for fun so you should mostly have fun doing it) but it helps me figure out what I actually want to work on and why.  I figure some discipline is a good thing as long as I'm still finding the mapping process fulfilling.

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Posted (edited)

as a person with adhd, i can perhaps provide some advice

 

a complete lack of focus is something i've always had to deal with. now, for me it's a bit different - i literally cannot control it without medication and it works quite a bit differently from normal people, and is quite a bit more severe - but i do try to deal with it in various ways. one of the big ones is that, when my mind drifts to some other hyperfixation while i'm working on a project, what i try to do is implement ideas from my new hyperfixation into the project i'm doing instead of dropping everything and just moving over to that new thing.

 

as an example, one of my previous hyperfixations used to be gta sa modding. i would literally spend entire days doing nothing but modding the game, staying up for 24+ hours doing it (being incapable of drawing your attention away from things is a big thing with adhd unfortunately lol). however, my mind started to drift to something different: learning about cars. instead of letting myself be ripped away from gta sa, i just decided to incorporate it into my modding. i started screwing around with irl models of cars and massively expanding the game's list of cars. and i kept doing that until i got up to adding 100+ or so different new vehicles, at which point i then switched over to carmageddon modding lol

 

rn my mind is sorta drifting away from doom and more towards just general classic fps games, so i'm trying my best to keep on mapping by taking ideas from those games, like architecture and setpieces, and implementing them into the map. it seems to be working to a certain extent, although that doesn't solve the whole issue of motivation that comes with adhd. either way!! that's what i try to do when it comes to stuff like this

 

i guess this could cause a few problems, like the map being really inconsistent, but...i've never really seen a problem with that, personally. as long as it's fun to play, y'know?

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Posted (edited)

If I get mappers block, I just don't map, because I've never had good success forcing anything.  However, you have an interesting variant of this.

 

6 hours ago, Roofi said:

I've done big and small maps, but it's been almost a year since I've been going through the worst mapping block I've ever had. However, I'm not short of ideas, I've got lots of ideas that could be very cool to realize. However, it only takes one hour of mapping for me to want to make another map and abandon the idea I wanted to make. 

 

Would it be possible to combine your ideas into a sort of....frankenmap?  Just paste a few setpieces you've accumulated onto one map and kinda....connect them, mess around with them?  You might very well stumble across something.

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This is a nice, encouraging thread. I'm glad I'm not alone in this, @Roofi! I found that making a couple of small, vanilla-compatible maps on a whim improved my confidence significantly, though this probably wouldn't help a veteran like yourself. Made me realize that if my ambition was to make myself into a budget Erik Alm or AD_79, I'd have a much easier time making maps xD

 

Of course, my real ambitions are a little more... impractical, which results in a similar pattern of behavior to what you just described. Combine that with rampant perfectionism and a general lack of experience and you get a pretty epic mapper's block cocktail of despair. So, in essence, I can relate ;)

 

Perhaps your issue is a lack of compelling context? Do you find it easier to make maps for well-defined community projects?

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Sounds familiar. I've this kind of method for that (links to a post how I managed to put pieces together):

 

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For me, the unfinished stuff accumulates for a while, then I delete everything for good (often as I’m coming out of a burnout induced break) and make something middling in size and not too ambitious in scope within a week, release that and get back on an even keel to start something a bit more ambitious.

 

 Wiping out your WIP folder when maps have been taunting you unfinished, or worse, finished in a larger project that’s stalled, is a nice bit of catharsis and frees the ideas for reuse somewhere that they may be released. It also lightens the self-imposed load.

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My entire approach to mapping so far has been roughly equivalent to throwing ideas at the wall and hoping one of them sticks. That is, I dont go in at all with any preconceptions, and once something starts coming together I just let that guide me towards a logical conclusion. I might pick a theme (techbase, hell or whatever) but that's flexible as I might decide to change the thematic approach on the fly. This often results in a few sessions of "I'm not sure where this is going yet" before things start coming together, but I find it keeps things fluid during the initial process. So far everything I've done has been relatively short and to the point, but that's more a side result of me not having the patience to spend hours and hours on grand designs. 

 

For the latest one I'm making, once I built the first space I decided I needed a sequence in mind for how I wanted the  map to work: switch in room 1 opens room 2, room 2 switch opens room 3, etc., that also helped with the wider design as I had a reference point for how it should flow from start to finish.

 

Kinda thinking aloud here but hopefully some of that resonates. 

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My basic advice: If you have a lot of mapping ideas all at once, I think the best thing to do is just try them all out until you find the one that works best. Similar to what @VisionThing says, it's better to test out an idea in the preliminary stages to find out if it's actually good or not. Find an idea that yields a good feeling when you test the map, and then hunker down and go with that direction.

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My problem is that I can't focus on anything besides my ambitious project. This means that if my ambitious project is too complex, I still can't work on something simpler with greater chances of getting released with good score. Basically I have an Eternity project that hanged in progress limbo for more than a decade, and I can't get motivated to try something simpler that may get released much sooner, like a vanilla Doom II level.

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Posted (edited)

@printz Work on the simpler, smaller stuff first. Put the bigger stuff out of your mind, even if it is long overdue. Completing smaller endeavors will help rebuild your motivation, confidence and creative energy that will help with the bigger projects later on.

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mm, you can't just say "drop the thing you're obsessed with" cos that misunderstands compulsion and stubbornness :3 I'm the opposite, I find it too easy to abandon projects as soon as I hit upon another idea!

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Thanks for all answers !

 

I recently lost all my unfinished works because I bought a new computer and my old hard-drive doesn't work anymore.

 

Indeed, it's a lot easier to make a map when you don't set your own rules. For instance , when you make a map for a community project with only hell maps , you know that all your ideas have to be hell-related. I made very few maps outside community projects because of this lack of focus.

 

As you said , I really think the only solution is to create something very small and simple , going back to basics.

 

I think my goal is just to have something finished just to get the mapping process going again after months of serious block.

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I've been using Habitica as a way to keep myself on task- if you can plan ahead some, or enough, to put in a checklist of things you want to do on a map, I recommend it.

 

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Not always appropriate, I know, but have you tried mashing the ideas together? If you have three great ideas, can they work as part of the same map?

Haven't applied this directly to mapping, but it's worked wonders for writing. NaNoWriMo projects have turned out much better than they might have because I've managed to shoehorn various ideas together to see what came out.

In short , your focus issue might be happening because you're not letting the original scope expand to include the new ideas as you have them.

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1 hour ago, Roofi said:

As you said , I really think the only solution is to create something very small and simple , going back to basics.


I like to join community projects like 96k challenge or Theme-gawad project as a little "mapping vacation" from other stuff. For me, the restriction-based challenges really help me to think about what map elements are most important, without being too much of a time sink.

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4 hours ago, Roofi said:

 

As you said , I really think the only solution is to create something very small and simple , going back to basics.

 

 

 

If it makes you feel any better, there are many of us, like me, that love playing shorter maps.

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I had this issue whenever i used to think of all rooms by myself, squeezing ideas to make everything original, however almost everyone have ideas to make one room or two and don't have any idea at all in how to connect both or how to proceed with the flow of the map. Recently i have tried a method that is basically a mix of original ideas plus stuff that already exists like places i've seen in games or liminal spaces and then remake or demake them accordingly to the visual style of the map.


This method i started doing since i picked my very first map to remake it as MMDCXIV, and as much as any people who played both versions of the map can notice the rooms and corridors they have in common, but the entire shape and flow of both are completely different.

When i also made a Left 4 Dead 2 campaign as well, there were moments which i didn't have much ideas to progress with the flow but also didn't use the next original idea i had for a room, this resulted in many rooms being actually remakes of places i've seen previously in other games which even includes this specific room, movies also counts too as i also based half of a map visuals from The Maze of The Maze Runner trilogy and tried to remake that place too.

Judge at your own will, but personally i like when translations like those are made without being remakes 1:1, because you still have to deal with visual style and context change. You can always resort to this method whenever you don't want to use the next room you have in mind but also don't have anything else to proceed with the map.

P.S: I've come to think that many people starts level design by mapping their own houses, the street they live in or even the schools they studied in exactly because you translate those places far easily than just coming up with something 100% original because they already exist. Trying to make anything 100% out of your own mind is pratically impossible to do nowdays, even if you think you made something original, subconsciouly you didn't. One example i like to use is the classic usage of "massively tall tower", which i think the first origin of it is the Tower of Babel, in which its massive size served as inspiration for the Barad-Dur from LOTR, which probably inspired Half-Life's Citadel and after that lots of other games just decided to follow this concept of one very very tall building.

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Posted (edited)

My elder brother is like that, he can get hyper focused but he also struggles to keep his attention on something for too long.

 

It's a kind of catch 22 situation that shouldn't happen (it's like water and fire mixing) but somehow it does. Unless he's been full of shit all these years but I doubt it, if he is then he's successfully maintained the illusion for 20+ years.

 

Anyway, he's not a mapper and he only tried it for a month before he moved on. He's not a Doom freak like I am, though he is fond of Doom. He had a similar issue, not being able to stay focused on the map he was working on. 

 

I told him to try working on 2-3 maps at a time, sounds strange but it worked for him. He worked on one map and when he started losing focus/interest he changed over and worked on a different map with a different theme for awhile. Before that he had about 9 unfinished maps, he managed to finish 4 of them in this fashion. I'm not saying it will work for you, but it might be worth investigating.

 

Another option is to force a goal upon yourself. For example: Try joining a community project, if you have to submit a map then you're more likely to see it through to the end.

 

Hopefully at least some of this is useful to you. Goodluck.

 

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I can recommend speed mapping as a way of practising taking ideas through to completion. While they seem to mostly be about having a laugh and making something a bit silly (and they are often silly), speedmapping sessions help hone your skills. Staying focused is a big part of successfully making a map in 2 hours and the great thing is, if you don't make it? You've only spent 2 hours, and you'll probably have a good core of a map that you can finish off in your own time. 

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I noticed similar problem with myself - I can't focus on one project to finish it, unless it's timed and has deadline over it. So, in my hard drive there lie lots of mapping projects in various stages, some are close to finish and others are just started. My mind sometimes gets new idea and I'm just "oh, shiny, let's open up builder and draw some stuff" regardless if I have plenty other older ones to do. It sucks. In other hand, I sometimes feel like I'm drawing same thing over and over again, just putting new coat on it to hide what I did...  I don't have good tips, besides you could try think about clear goal and steps to reach it or just hide builder somewhere and don't think about it for few days, it helps me most of times. 

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Posted (edited)

Maybe experimenting with the idea on a paper before going to Doom Builder? Then you can have a better view of where you want to go, easily scrap bad ideas or write multiple drafts until you have a consistent layout, and when mapping in Doom building it will be easier to be focused. If I have to think at everything on the fly (while mapping), it becomes much harder to organize my thoughts and the whole process drains a lot more energy from my brain, which might be the reason why it is so difficult to focus.

 

Speedmapping seems to be a nice suggestion too, and I should try it...

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Bumping the idea to draw the map on paper before working on it on the Builder. Helped me a ton.

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Posted (edited)

My cycle typically goes:

 

1. Come back to dabble in the maps I started years ago

2. Get into the process, get more work done in 2 months than I had in the previous 5 years

3. Become obsessed, my life is consumed by trying to finally finish my maps

4. Burn out as I get tired of single-minded focus on one thing and as I realize my maps still kind of suck anyway

5. Get into other projects for the next year or three

6. Eventually, repeat

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