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MFG38

The psychology of "seeing the numbers"

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Some of you probably remember stewboy's thread from a while back titled "Why I will no longer tag my secrets and why you shouldn't either", where the discussion revolved around the Doom community's seemingly dominant completionist mentality and, briefly, the adverse psychological effects that seeing a map's statistics in either the automap or an extended HUD of some kind can play on you. To that end, I was inspired to start this thread to pose some questions as to why the numbers matter in the first place.

 

Picture this: you're playing a wad that you've thoroughly enjoyed thus far. You exit the current map and enter the next. Upon the map being loaded, you glance down at the statistics provided by the extended HUD and witness a 4-digit monster count. That, along with the opening view, is your first impression of the map. What kind of reaction is that likely to evoke? What kind of image about the adventure ahead does that draw into your mind? Is it met with a sense of enthusiasm or one of dread?

 

For the more casual players among us, I'm willing to bet money that it's the latter. The question at that point, then, is whether you still give the map an honest attempt or skip it outright. Or pick the middle ground and IDDQD around to see what the map is like before deciding. Either way, the main question I want to ask with this thread is this: How does knowing the stats "beforehand" affect our experience of playing a map?

 

I'll openly admit that I'm guilty of having pressed the Tab button first thing upon entering a map many a time, if only because seeing a map's kill count gives me some sense of how long I can expect it to be. I've even had the extended HUD open in dsda-doom during entire megawad playthroughs. And I'll be entirely honest: it hasn't been good on me. While I'm far from a completionist, depending on the kill count, playing a map can still turn from a fun adventure to an absolute chore for me. Which is why, when I started playing Eviternity 2 recently, I decided to turn off the extended HUD and even hide the stats on the automap.

 

And you know what? The effect of not seeing the statistics - of not knowing how much is left kills-wise in particular - has been nothing but positive. Granted, Eviternity 2 in itself is all sorts of awesome, but the important thing is that because I never "see the numbers" until the intermission screen, I haven't been psychologically affected by the initial scare of a map's monster count. If anything, I've been enthusiastic about experiencing each and every map when I don't have to actively worry about how much resistance still remains. But much to my own dismay, it feels like I represent the minority.

 

It seems to be a particularly popular mentality in the content creator space that you haven't gotten the "full experience" of a map, if you will, unless you UV-Max it, which I honestly lack the brain capacity to comprehend. Not to mention that because of that mentality, the classic Doom side of content creation has been homogenized to the point of no one standing out because everyone plays in the same way. Very rarely in this day and age do you see someone playing on a difficulty that isn't UV, only killing the monsters and finding the secrets that they naturally do without keeping an eye on the statistics. Anyway, that's another discussion entirely.

 

On the other hand, there is a benefit to having the stats visible if 100% completion of a map is your ultimate goal - with the extended HUD, you always know how much you have left to go. But if you want a more casual and exploratory experience without the pressure of the numbers, the obvious choice is to hide them.

 

At any rate, the questions I ultimately want to pose with this thread are as follows: To what extent does seeing the kill count at the start of a map matter? What are the psychological benefits and/or drawbacks? What kinds of positive and/or negative preconceptions do we create in our heads based on that information?

Edited by MFG38 : clarified intentions

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while i've always been pretty outspoken about hating the completionist mindset, i'll admit that i do check the monster count at the beginning of the map and then all throughout. i actually used to not do this, but after having played a few maps where they just felt like they went on, and on, and on, i found that having the monster count there to give me an idea of where i was in the map progress-wise helped quite a bit to somewhat ease burnout resulting from long maps. besides, if the map and wad is well-paced then even maps that have monster counts in the 4-digits won't be that much of a chore for me. in fact, if i really like the map and find myself having missed a bunch of enemies when i reach the end of the map, i'll go back and start exploring instead of just exiting like i usually do. that's not all that common though - typically if i've missed tons of stuff then i usually don't give much of a shit :p

 

so, for me personally, i keep the numbers on in the automap because i find it helpful and not as detrimental as it seems to be for others. that's something specific to me, however; it seems that for a lot of others, it actively hurts their experience rather than helping it. which is bizarre to me, as you'd think that people would wanna have fun instead of making everything they do a game of where's waldo with monsters.

 

to be quite honest with you, i think this is a bit of a problem in modern gaming culture in general. people have to have their ridiculous little stats counter because they need to get 100% for...reasons. maybe it's because they'll go into withdrawal and start convulsing if they aren't able to make themselves miserable trying to do everything in the game, who knows. that certainly seems to be the case with deranged lunatics like decino, who tried to stop getting 100% after the ancient aliens debacle but then went right back to doing it as though he's a crackhead or something.

 

who really knows. at this point, my opinion of the matter is that the people who refuse to stop doing stupid shit like that deserve all the pain coming their way. there's a very relevant quote that i think everyone should hear in regards to this:

On 4/4/2023 at 12:32 PM, mouldy said:

i think mappers should keep using obscure secrets and let streamers suffer the pain they deserve.

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I know why I have this completionist mindset: because I'm aware that for the vast majority of megawads, I'll be playing them only once and never again. That's a drawback of having three decades of backlog in a community this creative - you can either go indepth into a handful of wads, replaying them multiple times and learning their secrets naturally, or experience something once, try to see everything the maps have to offer and move to the next thing. I consciously chose the latter.

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I also wish I could play Doom the way I like. But those damn completionists and their videos force me to do as they say. How dare they go for 100% kills and secrets? Must be something wrong in their heads.

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I'm realizing after rereading my OP that my point, through all of the tangents therein, strayed quite far away from what I originally wanted to discuss. This was meant to be less about completionism and more about negative (and possibly false) preconceptions made solely based on a map's kill count. But it's going to need a pretty heavy rewrite to get that across and I'm too tired to do so right now, so I guess I'll give it a shot tomorrow.

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The exact reason why I disabled the monster/kill count on the automap.

 

It instantly spoils the scope/length of the map and you can use it to gauge how far along you are. Without it, you don't know how close the end is until you see it.

 

The only thing I keep visible are secret numbers. It doesn't really tell you much about the map's scope (small maps can be loaded with mini secrets or huge maps can have a few).

 

But there is still one unavoidable thing that can spoil a map's scope and that is the automap's zoom level. Depending on how far out you can zoom out, you can tell the overall size of the level.

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2 hours ago, MFG38 said:

Why do so many of us decide to turn what's supposed to be a fun recreational activity into a chore?

Human brains care about numbers going up, or rather in whatever direction makes them match expectations. For many quantifiable progress is fun, whether it's to get closer to "platinum"ing the game, "catch them all" collectibles, see levels go from 1 to 100, damage from 50 to 9999, download/copy progress bar reach 100% and whatever else you can think of.

 

... aaand now I'm going to cut it short since I saw the other post while writing this.

 

I do prefer the fact that the arcade/scoreboard aspect of Doom is accessible in easy, convinient and fairly complete form of in-game counters, cheats/console and map editors. If we didn't have that, and I dare say even if Doom never had a % tally screen, I suspect we'd instead see a proliferation of wiki entries/guides/posts about "how to find everything on map X of wad Y", because people would still ascribe value to "100%"ing, whatever form that may take.

 

 

25 minutes ago, MFG38 said:

more about negative (and possibly false) preconceptions made solely based on a map's kill count

I often look to start a level on a limited time schedule (10-30 minutes before my usual time to start turning in for the day is fairly common), so kill counter is useful to me in that regard. It's not without fault but, provided I know the general monster usage patterns of a wad, it's not useless either. Sure, 400/500 monsters might be a zombieman rocketfest, but if the previous 10 maps featured incidental combat trickle for over a half of 200+ killcount - I'm leaving that one for another day. Similarly, it's entirely possible for a 120 monster map to be a painfully slow ammo starvation experience with a billion reloads incoming, but again I can extrapolate progress over time to make a "do I just give up for today or stay for another 5-10 minutes as I think I can push it across the finish line" judgement.

 

I should also probably note I'm a "don't care much for spoilers" person, I prefer to find ways to enjoy foreknowledge instead of being upset about it.

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I usually have the stats disabled for a first time playthrough until ofc i open the automap and see, but seeing a 4 digit monster count makes me excited, it means either lots of combat or spectacle, otoh, seeing more than 5 secrets can make my eyes roll.

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I don't go for completionist runs. When it feels like the map has run out of things I'm interested in seeing or I just want to move on, I move on. Sometimes that means I go out of my way to 100% everything, and sometimes I don't. And that isn't a dig at the map if I leave early. It just means that I'm ready for the next thing and feel like I'm satisfied with my experience in that map.

 

If I really want to see all the secrets, then I can look up a guide or something. I don't need to be the one to find them lol on my own. Life's too short for that.

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1 hour ago, treulosetomate said:

I also wish I could play Doom the way I like. But those damn completionists and their videos force me to do as they say. How dare they go for 100% kills and secrets? Must be something wrong in their heads.

it's more that they end up throwing a pissy fit because it takes a while for them to find everything, and end up calling the map bad as a result. and then dumbasses see that and assume that they must be right because they're dumbasses, and then the map gets a bad reputation for no other reason than people wanting an arbitrary number

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I've never checked any numbers while playing. My intermission screen is always something like 43% 64% 27% or some arbitrary shit like that. Never gave much thought to it, didn't even know it was some sort of philosophy.

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ive noticed that, in general, theres a LOT of aggression and hostility between people that like to collect things and people who do not see the point. Whether its achievements in modern games, stuff like Doom with percentage meters, games with missable content etc.

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If I start up a map and see a monster count of more than 700, I'll most likely quit - unless the map really speaks to me somehow within the first few minutes, or if I know it beforehand and find it interesting for some reason. "Slaughter", "Combat puzzle" et al generally don't interest me, typically my "limit" lies around stuff like "Unstable Journey" from BTSX 2, but even stuff like that I might find tedious on a bad day.

 

As for secrets, I don't care that much - but I prefer many secrets to none or few secrets. And I never look for them compulsively.

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As per the intended topic of OP, sure, I have from time to time took a sneak peek at how many monsters a fresh map has before I start to tackle it.

This is for personal reasons; I'm super prone to burnout and need to know ahead of time if any given map is going to be an overlong slog that I'll have to tackle in multiple sessions; anything more than an hour of play (which wouldn't necessarily translate to map completion time, because failures and reloads et cetera) and my concentration drops off dramatically -- and with it my enjoyment of a map, possible even the WAD itself if it keeps happening.

Sometimes even an update peek partway through because JEEZ HOW MUCH LONGER IS THIS FUCKER? etc

But I never do this with secrets, I'm not interested. I could rant about that whole other topic, as I have some opinions. But I won't, for now.

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yeah, let's get back on topic. sorry for misunderstanding the thread's purpose.

 

i'm a lot like jayextee in that i suffer from burnout rather quickly, and if a map takes too long for me without having a good sense of flow and progression, then i just end up not wanting to play it at all. i've been getting better about this over time - i've been a lot better about completing wads in general instead of dropping them because i get bored or they get too hard, which is what i used to do - but it's still a problem with me. having a gauge as to not only how long a map is but how much longer i'll have til i finish it can help quite a bit for dealing with that.

 

i'm not really sure how common this is though. i think it may primarily be a thing with adhd tbh

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People will play the game the way they prefer to, imo. As for myself, I like seeing the numbers in the beginning of the map to estimate how much time I'll be spending until I finish it, also to prepare myself mentally or to take a break at that moment as well. I don't care about 100%, though, because I'm really bad with secrets and if the map is too meaty I might let some enemies live too. In the past I used to try to kill them all, but I found some maps worked better for me if I relaxed a bit more, especially because some enemies are too tedious to kill without high-tier weapons

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I enjoy seeing the monster count as a way to estimate the length of a level - however, sometimes this can be deceptive. Joshy maps in SOD have far fewer mosnters than Darkwave's contributions, but usually take much longer to beat. Some maps leave a majority of the monsters at the end of the map, or even have a majority die at the very start. I'm not the type of player to dismiss a map based on monster count, so usually this isn't too big of a problem for me, but I do think I can get affected by knowing (or thinking I know) exactly "what im in for".

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I prefer to play maps in a single sitting, so I like to know how much I'm committing to when I start. I enjoy long maps but I have to set aside time for them rather than just picking them up on a whim like I would with a five-minute speedmap. Monster count isn't a perfect metric of length for obvious reasons, but combined with some knowledge about the sort of WAD I'm playing it's better than nothing. Knowing I'm near the end of a map can encourage me to use the ammo I've been saving up, so having the stats available can be fun in that sense.

 

Incidentally, for my ongoing playthroughs of Faithless and Veil of Darkness, I have the stats disabled (and also chose not to show secrets on the automap until explored), because both use a hub system and I think much of the fun of exploring an interconnected hub comes from not knowing how much more there is to an area. I was never planning to play those in a single sitting anyway.

Edited by Shepardus

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I also see numbers everywhere, just like Mason from Black Ops. What do they mean?

 

Anyway, I try to disable monster/item/secret counts if I can (as well as secret found messages) simply because I don't care about 100% anything, because it became so boring to me. I don't even look for secrets anymore really, I only sometimes hit an odd wall texture. Nor do I pick up bonuses and spheres if I don't need them, as I prefer saving them just in case.

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I don't really care too much. Sometimes, I'll be in more of a mood or time to find secrets but really, missing out on a secret fight in a map isn't such a big deal. And I've found when playing in source ports where stats are immediately enabled that I don't really care that much.

 

On the other hand, it's a good barometer in general for tracking how much of the way I'm on to completing a map like roadworx said. For the most part, I can do without it if it's a longer map anyway.

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I can understand the frustration of having particularly egregious secrets in a 100% run, definitely. Hell, I've untagged secrets in maps I've worked on just because I've realised they're a bit too annoying to get normally (for example, an invulnerability sphere that you need to parkour to from an awkward angle whilst under fire from a bajillion monsters)

 

As for my own play, I only consistently go for 100% secrets on MAP15/MAP31s (or equivalent), and I'm not above looking them up if need be.

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I started typing out a big response to this, 1000 monsters in a slaughtermap ≠ 1000 monsters in a less slaughtery map, different author styles even among the same authors, and all that, but others already have nice responses so far and there's no sense in me reiterating what's been said. But it all seems to miss the point I think. Fundamentally it seems to me that the underlying point is that you have issues with maps containing high monster counts for whatever connections in your head that it leads to and this thread is looking for validation on that feeling. It is a valid feeling, especially when you consider that everything we make is derivative of what's come before, that it is expected that the maps we make are going to be less accessible than a base game, and going into the unknown on some random online person's creation, there's no telling what we're in for. But I think the important thing is to put less meaning behind those numbers, and more to just use them as a rough % guide on how close you are to the end of a map. Sometimes 1000 monsters boils down to 5 set pieces and some incidental combat. Sometimes 100 monster maps are oops all cyberdemons. If it's to the point that you're thinking of skipping it or it is otherwise ruining your experience, it may be best to confirm with a quick iddt/opening in an editor, or hide the numbers from yourself as you stated.

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Monster counts can be misleading even in the same wad where the author has the same style. There are more glaring examples but I remember this one coming up in the DWMC. 

 

Arrival map01 on UV: 305 enemies, 28410 HP
Arrival map02 on UV: 172 enemies, 33070 HP

 

map02 has a cyberdemon but even without that, it has more total HP than map01. My first playthroughs were similarly long in each map (map01 will have archviles resurrect more enemies, which narrows the gap somewhat). People were commenting on how map02 would be shorter, but oops.

 

One big thing is that I try not to feel compelled to stop a session at the end of a level, rather than midway through a map. That opens up a lot. If I were prone to forgetting what I was doing, I'd try to end the session with a reminder note, like "Sunlust 2 map12: try to find that easter egg secret, we found two of the Astolfo dolls but the map seems to suggest we need five for the secret. One might be in the party boat."  

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I've tried playing both with kill count visible and hidden, and ended up settling on playing with the kills shown on the HUD. This isn't because I want to get 100% kills. I usually don't go out of my way to kill every enemy. There's just some base-level part of my brain that gets an extra layer of satisfaction from watching that kill count go up, and knowing how many enemies remain.

 

Edit: As for the argument for this spoiling the map, I actually like to know ahead of time if I'm in for a longer, more gruelling map, because I don't always feel like playing something that'll take a significant amount of time. I know the kill count isn't necessarily an accurate gauge for the difficulty or length of a map, but if you start up a map and see there's 500+ monsters, you at the very least know that it's going to be a different experience than something with 50 monsters. There have been plenty of times where I sit down to play doom for a little while before bed, start up a new map, see the kill count, and decide to save that one for another day.

Edited by jmac

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I just enjoy discovering and finding everything or as much as I'm able to no matter how long it takes and the numbers help me keep track of that

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I'm not 100% perfect in real life, so I just live up the fantasy of being so in a game. If anybody got a problem with that, them eh... I'm not sure what I'm to say.

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Awesome thread idea! There's certainly a psychology behind the amounts of kills, secrets, and even items, and if it's large, in most cases it's going to end up being a long map. There are of course major exceptions (Ravendesk's map in Sepia being a very notable one).

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I keep the numbers off, I am not playing UV max and I don't really care if some imps live another day.

But then again I also absolutely hate having to use the automap as well. If am constantly lost and have to look at the automap for unexplored tunnels I might tank a few more maps then stop playing the mapset altogether.

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I modified my local copy of Woof to only show percentages instead of counts, and I only have it on the automap.

That way you can get a general sense of progression but never "I have exactly 2 secrets left" nor knowing there's 1000 enemies right from the start.

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This topic is interesting.

What if a mapper removes the item/monster count and secret tags from a map?

Will people hate this?

 

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