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Richo Rosai

Did they know the PI sphere was worthless at the time?

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I always wondered this.

Surely the team was skilled enough (at least toward the end of development) to realize that the partial invisibility sphere was not only useless but in fact a hindrance except against hitscan enemies, and yet they left it in the game, with no apparent rhyme or reason to its placement (that is to say it isn't found more frequently around hitscan enemies) as far as I can tell. The rest of the design seems so lean and focused (no heart of lothar to be found, heh), but the PI sphere just seems like they felt too attached to it to axe it or something.

It's possible that people sucked or they expected people to suck enough to find it useful, but I remember even back when I was playing my first few plays-through on SNES and later with keyboard only, it always caused me to take damage.

So what gives? Any theories?

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For me it's not so much worthless as a mixed blessing. Even with the sphere I tend to strafe just in case my opponents get lucky - often side-stepping into their line of fire. :(

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It can be useful if you must perform tasks where dodging is hindered, such as when hitting a number of switches on ledges while under fire, when there are many hitscan opponents, or when there are too many monsters to dodge properly because they attack from various directions at the same time and you don't really have cover. In deathmatch it is quite useful, or course.

I found one pretty useful recently in a place that had a lot of lost souls that I wanted to more or less ignore while they swarmed around me.

It's true that since crappy players can't dodge well it is beneficial to them even when fighting a single projectile shooting monster, or a few of them attacking from easy to manage directions.

I think they may have noted its limitations, but probably less acutely than we do today.

In fact, it can purposely be used as a potential hindrance, placing it near a series of hallways containing projectile hurling monsters, if one takes the wrong turn after picking it up.

As far as DOOM itself is concerned, in general it seems relatively useful in Knee Deep in the Dead. Perhaps not much in the other two episodes. I'm pretty sure Petersen was less skilled than Romero (the intro demos, recorded by John, show he already had decent dodging skills), so perhaps he found them useful where he placed them. Besides, it is more useful if you simply want to avoid monsters instead of exterminating them, as you merely need to run by, instead of staying around them till you manage to defeat them.

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Let's remember the item was designed for Doom1 and to all intent's purposes, just carried over to Doom2.

Most of the bad guys the sphere is considered best against are the common Doom1 foes such as Zombies and Demon's.

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Like we've said, the PI sphere was developed originally for Doom1. In that game, a large number of enemies were hitscanners, and since hitscans cannot be "dodged," the pickup was actually quite beneficial. With Doom2, gameplay shifted to a point were most people prefered to make maps with projectile using enemies. The PI Sphere (IMO) is not beneficial against such enemies, since you get to dodge a randomly headed projectile instead of one with a know path. (I think a map in both Equinox and Scythe, which were the genome research map (Map04?) and Map27, "Terror", respectively, both forced the player to pick one up prior to fighting a Cyb to make the player actually have to dodge instead of circle-strafe.)

However, while the sphere is not as useful as it once once, I still believe that it is useful. In CC2 Map24 "The Mucus Flow," I found the two PI spheres especially useful for returning to the ammo bunker at the beginning of the map past the chaingun sniper towers and honestly wished there were more of them. At any rate, mappers can use them for traps if they wish in addition to helping the player dodge what may otherwise be an unfair hitscan fight.

Though I see what you're saying. I deliberately avoid picking up PI spheres unless I know a tough hitscan fight is coming, as they otherwise make life harder.

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Good for hitscans, bad for projectiles. All that needs to be said.

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The skill level of Doom players has increased almost immesurably since Doom first came out. I can still remember the blue key room on E1M3 of the original doom. The room goes dark, a wall opens up and four imps. Count them... 4 imps would come out. And I died there. What an awesome trap.

And when I first came across a PI, I had no idea what it was. And when I picked it up, I turned invisible. That was just the coolest thing back then, whether or not it diminished my combat effectiveness or not.

Anyway my point is that the skill level of the average Doomer back then was far lower, therefore the PI was much less of a disadvantage than it is now. It was cool... it was something new... Monsters fire went astray. Hitscanners hit you much less.

For the standards of the day, it was a good powerup.

Now of course, things are a little different.

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Without the PI, Erik Alm woulda never made this map in scythe where you must fight 2 or 3 cybers with it.
So it was a good decision to keep it :P

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The PI was definitely a good inclusion to Doom when the game was new, and today, when people are making their own maps, it's just like every other item and monster; sometimes it's a bad idea to include it in the map and sometimes it's a good idea.

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K!r4 said:

Without the PI, Erik Alm woulda never made this map in scythe where you must fight 2 or 3 cybers with it.

That was a nice trap. I just found something else to do while invisible and took out the Cybs when I became visible again, since dodging random rockets is kinda troblesome.

Anyway, the invisbility is just like the invulnerability in terms of mapping usage. It has to have something useful to do with it. It's kind of a let down to open a random secret room up and see a PI in it. I'm like "what am I supposed to do with this?" It's kind of like the author just wanted their map to have more secrets and didn't have anything particularly special to put in it. I'd probably just trigger the secret and leave the PI...

Like Creaphis said: Good usage and pointless usage, like anything else.

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The PI sphere is fairly useful provided that it's used right, both by the player and the mapper. As with a lot of other people, I found the sphere to be helpful when I was new to Doom and was easily shot down by relatively small groups of shotgun guys, imps, demons, and so forth. As I got better, I found increasingly that the sphere wasn't saving me as much as it was screwing me over (with the exception, of course, of using it in the presence of hitscan enemies.) And I think that when id threw in all the PI spheres in Doom II in places where they're really not all that useful to experienced players, I imagine that they had low skill level in mind more than strategy and such.

On a side note, I don't remember the PI sphere/cyberdemon battle in Scythe, despite having just played through it. I'll have to go back to see that map again. :) (I do remember the one in Equinox though.)

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It's even rarer that you see an invulnerability artifact used well in a modern map. Nowadays, players don't really want to be handed a free pass, so mappers need to find ways for the player to be challenged even if the player is unkillable. Almost all mappers decide to just not include them, and when they are included, they usually shouldn't have been. I can think of two very good uses for the invulnerability sphere in Equinox, but that's quite a unique project.

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Yes, very cruel... >=] (Scythe Map27, "Terror")

The Cyb's not even looking my way, yet its rocket is STILL coming at me x_x.

EDIT: Building on what Creaphis said about invulnerability, the only real good things I can think of to use it for is to make the player pick it up and then put them against some impossible opposition that would instantly kill them otherwise. This way, the player has 30 seconds to make the fight fair before it wears off. It's also good for speedrunning where the player can decide what they think is the most dangerous fight and where using it would save the most time.

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The light amp goggles are another powerup that aren't really used much anymore. I think they'd be more appreciated if they didn't just turn everything to full brightness, because as they are they basically serve as the "make the map look ugly" goggles. IMO it's better to just light your map in a way that that the player can see what you want them to see, and be done with it. :P

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I'm not sure about this, but didn't Partial Invisibility put the player in "notarget" mode as well? Not that it would give any real advantage; I really don't recall ever getting it while no monsters were alerted.

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That's something borrowed from Heretic, where the shadowsphere does that.

spank said:
Not that it would give any real advantage; I really don't recall ever getting it while no monsters were alerted.

It's a pretty huge advantage when attempting to avoid monsters to progress. You just need to know when to avoid attacking, as this alerts monsters.

Most powerups are best used when one has an idea what they may be convenient for in the level, either because it's immediately evident (such as an invulnerability powerup near a couple of cyberdemons), or because of trial and error (replaying the level).

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The use of the invulnerability sphere follows the same pattern of the PI sphere in that it was meant for a different era of players who often weren't good enough to get by without being indestructible once in a while. Nowadays the only places where invulnerability really comes in handy is, as mentioned earlier, when the player is up against an otherwise impossible, or at least unfair, opposition. I recall there being a few on MAP26 of Scythe, and although they mostly weren't necessary given the presence of the Megaspheres they were useful when the player was teleported into a tight corner with three cyberdemons blocking the only escape.

The lite-amp goggles are something which I never see anywhere in custom maps. The map-ugliness thing is definitely a major reason for that, since fullbright maps never look good, but I think it's also because most mappers these days know better than to make a map with large extents of blackness, and when they do, it's okay because, given good design, good players can find their way about without the fullbright on. Even when I was new to Doom, though, I found I could still do almost as well without lite-amp goggles when they were provided.

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I think maps with a large extent of blackness could be done well in Heretic, where the torch can be used any time the player needs it, and it doesn't turn everything to an ugly full-bright. But yeah, Doom amps are better off without the liteamp. Full-bright is ugly and I'm not a fan of fake night-vision modes either.

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Just on a side note, I was once planning to make a map where there were several segments of the map that were pitch-black, light level 0. The player had to fight their way to light-amp googles and use their duration to fight through pitch-darkness without getting slaughtered. However, that seems a pretty awkward idea, since if the player was playing the map for the second time, they would know where to go even in darkness, which would be especially annoying for speedrunning where the quickest way might end up being to skip the googles and fight through the dark, which is neither fun nor necessarily fair, IMO.

As such, I'm not certain their's really anything particularly useful about them except the first time through a dark map, and just as well, the player can set the lighting to be appropriate for what the player needs to do.

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To a point the lack of usage of powerups in maps also points ot a certain degree of lameness in level design, where gameplay elements are put on a second level because people are mainly worried (and talk about) other aspects of level design. In a well-designed level any included invulnerabilty spheres (or other powerups) may be required to complete the level, or else you'll likely run out of health (or of time or ammo). The better the level is, the less obvious how to use many powerups will be. The player should be left with questions like "do I use it in that fight, or to get to that other powerup earlier?"

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I will say, I feel there's a difference between PI and Invulnerability. While both are pretty much useless to a skilled player, at least the Invulnerability sphere isn't actually harmful. There's nothing worse than, say, getting a PI and getting stuck with a few arachnotrons, because suddenly there's plasma flying everywhere and you can't effectively dodge.

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myk said:

To a point the lack of usage of powerups in maps also points ot a certain degree of lameness in level design, where gameplay elements are put on a second level because people are mainly worried (and talk about) other aspects of level design. In a well-designed level any included invulnerabilty spheres (or other powerups) may be required to complete the level, or else you'll likely run out of health (or of time or ammo). The better the level is, the less obvious how to use many powerups will be. The player should be left with questions like "do I use it in that fight, or to get to that other powerup earlier?"


I agree, it adds variety to the gameplay to see these powerups from time to time, but when I come across a powerup with no apparent usefulness in the vicinity, it strikes me as being poor level design rather than good. Of course, being handed an invulnerability sphere right before finding a cyberdemon isn't great level design either - it's very hard to hit that balance in between. No wonder we see so few of these spheres.

And of course, the ability for items to be picked up and used anywhere in the other Doom engine games has its own set of benefits and problems for map design.

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Neat.

My presumption was that it would screw players up even the first time they played (so long as they knew how to strafe), based on my own memories of the first time I played, but apparently this isn't the general consensus. Also, of course I agree that it can be and is often used well in modern maps (wouldn't know about deathmatch, never having the means to play it).

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The PI sphere doesn´t qualify as useless in my book.

Poor placement is seldom a problem for me, as i believe you´re generally better off leaving "stuff" alone untill you know whether it´s useful or not.
And that "poor placement" could infact function as a clever form of pitfall, to intentionally harm the player.

I often use the PI as a tool to provoke monster infighting, projectile and/or hitscanners, and a mix of the two usually creates mayhem.

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I'd like to see more maps make use of the partial invisibility. Often I remember hearing in discussions about most hated monsters, is that chaingunners often have a tendency to "snipe" players from long distances. It would be nice if partial invisibility was hidden in a large courtyard with chaingunners camped up high in towers.

I think it's also neat when Partial Invisibility serves as a disability, in ways such as in the screenshots Death Destiny posted, making fights with regular monsters twice as difficult.

About the Invulnerability sphere, I spent most of my weekend playing doom on the Gameboy Advance. In that game, most likely due to the lack of mouse aiming, monsters such as cacodemons and lost souls were serious pests. Especially when there are more than one, taking them out while dodging their high rate of fire was not easy, and rooms with 3 or more cacodemons would be devastating if the invulnerability spheres weren't there at the time. I think mouse aiming has spoiled us in modern source ports, making combat pretty easy in many situations. It's certainly a great thing that Doom 2 provided us with ridiculously threatening monsters that still remain a moderate difficulty today.

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I agree that mostly the lite amp goggles are useless, but I discovered at least one situation where they would be useful, though entirely by mistake. I made a level (level 7 of my little project) that has wide open areas, and a lot of spectres and hell knights teleporting in. There are enough monsters that they can still surround you and chew you up even though it is an open area. The lite amp goggles make it possible to dodge and weave between the roving groups of monsters, whereas otherwise it is near impossible.

So even in modern maps, there is still one way that the lite amps can be used well.

"Whats that you say?? Partial invisibility?? Reading through this thread, I must now make it my personal mission to use a PI in a new and interesting way on one of my levels."

BTW, great comments here guys, especially what u said stupidbunny. I'm starting to wonder whether you are as stupid as your name would imply.. :P

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Kyka said:

I'm starting to wonder whether you are as stupid as your name would imply.. :P


I came up with the name years ago, right off the top of my head. XP

Also, now that you mention it the lite-amp goggles ARE useful when it comes to finding spectres. Even if the player knows the map well, they won't be able to know exactly where spectres are in very dark areas.

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I think the problem with light amplification is not the goggles themselves but that it's hard to have a consistent visibility between systems. To one player it may make sense because some dim areas may cause him to get lost or waste ammo shooting at hard-to-see opponents, while to another it may be totally unnecessary. This issue is increased with modern engines that for one add higher gamma correction possibilities internally. ZDoom goes up to 3.0, while Doom only offers the equivalents of ZDoom's 1.0, 1.2, 1.4, and 1.6 (usegamma 0-3). Additionally, modern OS applications are affected by gamma correction or brightness set through system utilities that access the OS's drivers, while (as far as I know) DOS applications like the original executable aren't.

That's why it's probably wise to give an idea of what brightness levels the WAD was tested under by saying something like "set your gamma correction or brightness so that you can dimly see X from location Y".

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