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sketner

Advice for newbies?

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Hey there all. I'm Sam Ketner, I was heavily into wad editing for awhile and did the Teitenga zdoom hub mod plus some other levels you may have run into like Woodburn and Cresta, plus a hooge level for Milenium that I wish I could get back if they're not going to use it. Haven't done anything in awhile.

I'm now a high school teacher and as the end of the school year approaches it has fallen to me to find something that my senior IB Design Technology kids would remain interested in... So naturally I now have a bunch of them designing Doom levels. I will probably release their work when they are done (just as likely, they will not be great) and I thought I'd throw it out there to see if any of you M@D 5K1LL5 wad editors had some succinct advice to give a bunch of Halo nerds who are incensed that they can't put rooms over rooms.

Due to time constraints and the kitchen sink newbie problem I am limiting them as much as possible--the levels will have to be Doom 1 levels, with no new textures, sounds, monsters, etc.

Let me know what you think!

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I wish I had you as a teacher.

I don't have much advice to give. My greatest problem when I started editing was how sector reference worked, so my maps were full of HOM and such. That and knowing the limitations of the doom engine.

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To be familiarised with a map builder, I think your students should make a first small and functionnal map (a start, a door, a lift, few monsters added, an exit, few weapons and ammos, a teleport and a key to use, few variations of sectors, a celling with sky and skills implemented).
After this, their only limit would be their lazyness and creativity =)

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How many students are in your class, and what is the average age? I have 11 students in my current IT class, ranging from elementary grades 4 through 8. They're having a lot of fun fiddling around with Doom Builder (editing maps for Doom 2), but there are some things I found out that you may need to be aware of:

  • Some students are much more interested in just playing than actual editing or anything that reeks of education. I actually kicked one student out (irl permaban, heh, it's an option class) for constantly just playing whenever I turned my back. Make sure you keep a steady flow and keep it interesting for them.

  • When teaching about linedef specials and sector tags, make sure you use a slow pace. An example on the big screen, have students follow your steps to the letter, and have students then try it themselves, you will find out that some students may not have understood everything fully, and you find yourself hopping from PC to PC, explaining it again. This may become very time consuming if you have a lot of students. But I guess you already knew that, since this is the case with most IT topics.

  • Just like a lot of people who got DEU from BBSes or from a CD back in 1994, they may be easily satisfied with their results (hey, I got a room, a weapon, a working door, let's see how many cyberdemons fit into it), and you may end up with a bunch of maps without errors, but not really looking all that great, or not even really playable. You may devote some classes to proper texturing and gameplay, and have students realize that others playing their maps may not think it's as great as they do.

  • Not sure whether you have any trouble similar to mine, but I work in a school in Shanghai, meaning that the computers have Chinese Windows installed and the system operator is Chinese. He installed English Windows for me, but most recently reinstalled without video drivers, so Doom Builder's 3D mode doesn't work (which, in the case of my students, has the advantage of forcing them to use 2D mode and think more). If you're not the system operator at your school, make sure you make clear that he/she doesn't do anything with your files without asking you first, but I guess that actually goes without saying. But I said it anyway. So there.
Here is the link to a thread I started a while ago about my computer class: http://www.doomworld.com/vb/doom-builder/42159-teacher-my-vertices-wont-stitch/

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sketner said:

I thought I'd throw it out there to see if any of you M@D 5K1LL5 wad editors had some succinct advice to give a bunch of Halo nerds who are incensed that they can't put rooms over rooms.

There are some basic pointers for newbies (as well as some tips for advanced editing) at DooM Nexus.

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thanks for your advice everybody, esp. scorpion. Unfortunately I too am out of time and only 2 class periods remain until next year, but I think it'll boost my numbers considerably in that class.
I think one of the things I'll do next year is to ban them from placing any monsters until the architecture is perfect... Ultimately gameplay is the hardest part.

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I have little experience teaching classes, but I might suggest making a map-less version of the FreeDoom iWad and matching it with a nice user-friendly source port like ZDoom or GZDoom. That way it forces your students to create their own maps. It also has some nicer textures IMO. Using ZDoom or GZDoom will remove the complaints of "what? no room-over-room?"

Huy Pham (Corrupted Marine) had a bunch of good suggestions in his deus vult 2 textfile.

his suggestions for mapping

+ Make sure to communicate ideas explicitly with the player,
  for example, when expressing a laboratory, make sure
  computers, lasers, and biological tanks are present. Like
  writing and other media of communication, better to show it
  than to declare it on your textfile!

+ A dominant color theme will turn an otherwise good looking map 
  beautiful.

+ The music has got to match the environment, it shows good taste
  and once again reinforces the communication of the level's theme
  to the player. Example: AV Map30: Point Dreadful.

+ If one's eyes were nuanced enough to see the subtle tone and shading of
  Fredrik's tech, one would recognize that Vrack3's art direction is genius.

+ WTF is green marble doing with redrock? They need to stop designing
  levels like that. There is no Christmas theme in hell. 
  RED or BLACK marble goes with REDROCK.

+ In Hell, you cannot run out of black and red.

+ With black textures and flats, you can get away with many mapping crimes, 
  like flat ceilings for example. If you don't believe me, check out the
  Minas Morgul map.

+ The secret to making a good hell map? Absorbing Alien Vendetta's Map29, 
  remember its lighting, monster placement, and most importantly, its shape.

+ Yes, the looks of the level do affect gameplay, because the ingame
  atmosphere is a part of gameplay... how much a part of the gameplay is the
  atmosphere? How much do you feel it should be?

+ Windows are multipliers of details.

+ Altitude, whether at the top of a mountain or under the basement of a
  tomb, is a good indicator of level progression. Use it liberally.

+ Skyboxes? No no, fully-scaled, 360-degree backgrounds are better!

+ Why would I want to go through rooms connected by a bunch of hallways? 
  I don't get it.

+ There is a difference between level progression and leading the player
  through a maze. Level progression happens when you tell a story with
  architecture, leading the player through a maze is when the story gets
  boring with nonsense... I hope you can tell a good story.

+ It's not so hard to close off the levels with four walls that has nothing
  behind them, but the mapper who has done so has missed his chance of
  showing the player a beautiful vista that reinforces the atmosphere
  of the level.

+ Easy it is to make a level difficult, but could I trick someone else into 
  playing it?

+ I don't care what anyone else thinks, the default Doom/Doom2 pistol isn't
  fun to use in the slightest bit, not even if had a different look, not
  even when it had a different sound, not in ANY fight, not under any 
  circumstance.

+ Having the player start off with the default Doom/Doom2 pistol and asking
  them to kill enemies with it... pisses me off.

+ Good traps must not only surprise the player, they must be logical
  as well. Don't just trap the player, trap him in with a tomb and a 
  skeleton to boot.

+ The best placement of the exploding barrel, ever, is located at the start
  of Ander Johnsen's AV Map02: Rusty Rage. [I'd have to agree with Mike 
  on this]

+ Enemies popping out of walls and coffins are far scarier, thus more
  effective, than teleporting peeps.

+ Cyberdemons are only scary when you don't give the player enough
  ammo and space to deal with them. Not enough space is scarier though.

+ You can beat an archvile to death with your bare fist, all the funner
  with beserk.

+ The megasphere isn't there for you to grab like supermarket grocery,
  it belongs to the monsters and they want it back. Did I mention that the 
  monsters have sharp claws and hurl fireballs?

+ Finding a secret gives me that same feeling when I find an extra coin
  in the phone booth.

+ What makes or break gameplay? Movement of the player. When the player 
  feels good moving about in his virtual environment without even fighting
  the enemies, that builds a foundation towards good gameplay. A strong 
  example of this concept in action is Super Mario 64, where the player's 
  movement feels good no matter where they are or what they're doing; Mario
  could be romping around the castle courtyard doing triple jumps and that
  in itself is already entertaining.

+ Proportions in a level is very important to player's movement and enemy
  contact. If a given space is too big, enemy contact will feel loose and
  sloppy; the baron of hell can be rendered harmless as a lampost with too
  much open spaces. If a given space is too cramped, the player's movement
  is restricted, and he will continually bump into things, making player 
  movement an exercise in frustration rather than smooth play. Like all 
  aspects of map design, moderation here is key. Good examples of level 
  proportions include John Romero's maps, Anders Johnsen's maps, Kim Malde's
  maps, Erik Alm's maps, Kama Sutra, vrack3, and even ChordG.

+ The above statement still holds true in the face of some supposedly 
  open maps, like Epic Map05, where extremely large open areas are 
  moderated by islands of fights in smaller spaces.

+ PV = nRT... where P = Pressure of Opposition                
                    V = Area of a given space
                    n = Number of monsters
                    R = Mean monster movement speed
                    T = Average area controlled per monsters

+ One of the biggest violators of player movement are 8-unit posts that
  sticks out the wall... or even eight-unit posts... Period. 
  Get rid of them; they are hurting gameplay.

+ If details get in the way of player's movement, put them on the ceiling,
  like vrack2b.

+ Spending lots of time detailing that chapel room is nice, but that won't 
  determine the optimal number of revenants to insert into that area.

+ What is dynamic space? A room, hallway, area, etc. that drastically 
  alters the general vector and elevation of the player's movement.

+ What is beautiful space? A room, hallway, area, etc. in which the player 
  feels good moving about.

+ What is beautiful dynamic space? Good map design.

+ Exhaustive playtesting is the only theoretically sound way to 
  ensure that your map is fun. Game Law.

+ A bad gametester will tell you that "your map stinks."

+ A good gametester will tell you that "your map stinks, and here's why..."

+ A good gametester will never deem your map flawless.

+ Belial's, Brian's, and Mike's bitchings are worth their weight in mapping 
  gold.

+ If your testers tell you that a particular fight isn't fun, quit being 
  defensive and remove the perpetrating monster(s).

+ If your testers tell you that a particular fight is too easy, you know
  what to do...

+ There is no fucking way I can vertically align those fucking BRIK_06J 
  textures in the fucking Suzzallo Library, Belial... JUST BE QUIET 
  ALREADY! =p

+ Listen to your gametesters, they are the canaries to your mapping
  mine shaft.

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I think if you teach a Doom mapping class, as well as use that list of info Janitor just posted up, You are most likely to create an entire classroom of video game designers. But yeah I'd kill to have a doom mapping class. Where do you teach?

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I might add that it would be great to show your class some well designed levels too. Specifically, I mean things like AV, DV II and P:AR. Then show them crappy levels and how not to make them. Things like, "The Sky May Be," or "mattbratt level pack"

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Wait, are you teaching your students Doom level design technology, or Doom level design aesthetics/gameplay? Most posts here by others are emphasizing the aesthetic side, which simply can't be taught on short order in school. It took us all years of play to determine what aesthetics we like and why. I would recommend giving tips on what makes a good level and what doesn't, but someone unfamiliar to the Doom engine must supply their own interest to learn that, and must figure that out for himself. To teach the technology, I would start at the limit-removing or Boom level, to remove restrictions for the students without overloading them with features right away.

Don't enforce "make perfect architecture before adding monsters" unless your course has a focus on visual/architectural design. A good level must be designed with three things in mind simultaneously:
1. Must look awesome.
2. Must have cool fights.
3. Must have a good progression, through a specific environment, from beginning to end.
A beginning mapper will have a very hard time designing a level with all these elements right off the bat, so you can certainly suggest that they begin with architecture and stock the maps later, but I would leave the decision of what to focus on up to the individual mappers until the basics are under control. Someone new to the game simply has to experiment with the monsters for a while.

Also, considering the average amount of time that veteran mappers still spend on a single quality map, I don't imagine that you could have time for "perfect architecture" within your class anyway.

Janitor's last statement is another good example of why aesthetics can't really be taught, because I would argue that "The Sky May Be" is fantastic in terms of aesthetics and gameplay. It's profoundly unique and enjoyable if you take it for what it is instead of what your Doomer's instincts say it should be.

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Creaphis said:

Also, considering the average amount of time that veteran mappers still spend on a single quality map, I don't imagine that you could have time for "perfect architecture" within your class anyway.


I'm sure if the students were eager enough about mapping and did it often enough, they could probably finish a map in a few class periods (depending on the length of one class though).

One thing that I'd encourage your students to do is take peeks at other maps that are known for (good) quality. When I was still trying to get mapping down, I'd often just try and sort-of copy something that I saw in a map I liked. After a while, I'd eventually get to the point where I could easily get ideas from other wads but still make my stuff different enough so that it's not totally copying the other wad.

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I think I helped myself a lot when I made my first levels, by first drawing them on paper. I could erase and remake areas if things started to get too messy and illogical. That's no longer a problem with experience and Doombuilder, but it might be for someone trying to make a map for the first time like your students. There's just too many things for them to keep track of and a draft on paper might help them a great deal. The only problem is, that they might not find that very exciting :)

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