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Red October

Balancing a weapons & monsters mod

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"Hello All!"
I'm new here.
Awkward part over. Content follows.

I've been playing DOOM since it came out (well even before; I still have the mailorder boxes somewhere but the diskettes went tits up a few years ago; and of course it was always like disk 4 of 5) and have been playing mods since they came on CDs. Just recently though I decided to make my own mod, with some things in it I wanted to have. Thist has proven a bit difficult, though. I need some advice on how to balance things out, as it is a quite schizophrenic play experience depending on how the player is equipped and what he faces.

Here is where things stand; perhaps someone more experienced can tell me how to make this more balanced. (note that most of my material is drawn from realm667; I have changed stuff for balance or to fix broken wads (you have no idea how many weapons have no KEYCONF file in their wad...); made new weapons out of old ones, etc, but I am not claiming authorship of anything not mine and if this gets released naturally everyone due it will get credit)

Weapons:
Fist: Unchanged
Berserk fist: Unchanged
Chainsaw: Replaced with a plasma pistol. Does good damage but uses cells. Primary fire is powerful, secondary is a hitscan autofire mode that is weak; it can be used to stun a strong enemy but this chews through the ammo very quickly and taking down one or two big enemies can use up all your cells.
Pistol: Unchanged. Becomes largely useless almost immediately.
Shotgun: Replaced with another pump-action shotgun with a more realistic spread and better damage. Also quickly becomes useless.
Chaingun: Replaced with an XM-214 Minigun, uses 5.56 ammo at a realistic (read: prodigious) rate. With the backpack the player can carry 4,000 rounds, but you will seldom have that many. It is overpowered versus small enemies and weak but not useless versus the larger ones. The ammo replaces the ammo box and can also be found from slain chaingunners.
Super-Shotgun: straight use of an import of Doom3's SSG. Very powerful, a good blast a point-blank can deflate a Cacodemon; but longer cycle time and spread pattern make it dangerous, if effective against stronger foes.
Rocket Launcher: Unchanged. Sees little use.
Plasma Rifle: Replaced with another plasma rifle, still about as useful. I never used this weapon much and still don't, even with the newer, cooler sprite and graphics. It works pretty much the same.
BFG9000: Unchanged.
--New weapons--
Heavy Rifle: Replaces Blur Sphere -fires a single shot powerful enough to gib a small enemy instantly. Uses regular bullets; It fires rather too quickly but the graphics I am working with are not at all what I want here; I need to basically own up and create what I want; a break-action double-rifle firing an extremely large calibre round such as .585 Nyati. I need to figure out how to code a weapon that fires twice before cycling, though. I am begining to think it should replace the rocket launcher, and its bullets the rocket boxes. I have a plan for the loose rockets...
Thomspon Sub-machine-gun: Dropped by a new enemy, this is I feel is a more appropriate automatic weapon to use versus personel and the like. It uses its own ammunition which is currently only available in backpacks and from slain foes, but the player can carry a lot (500 normally and 999 with the pack). It's pretty balanced, you can use it versus a bruiser but you'll use a lot of shells and even though it fires fast it can't stun the stronger monsters reliably enough that you can just hose them down. It has a custom ammo item that I want to replace the loose rockets with.
Assault Cannon: based of a model for the Chaingun from Quake II, it has some similarities to that weapon in that it has long spinup/spindown times and fires faster if you keep firing, but otherwise it is much stronger and is best saved for the strongest enemies (although since it is only taken from the corpse of one of the strongest you will have to face at least one before you ever lay hands on it). At the moment it uses cells, which is inapropriate, but I'm reluctant to add yet another custom ammo item since I'm still using the stock status bar and thus you can't see counts for the 5.56mm ammo or the .45cal ammo. If there is a way to append this do let me know...
I also worked up a melee weapon based on the sword from Hexen, as a drop for an enemy since removed. It works pretty well but uses the unedited sprites so for no reason you wear a big gauntlet when you use it, so I'm probably going to leave it out versus edit in the right gloves...

As for enemies, I have a lot:
Zombieman: Unchanged
Shotgun Guy: replaced with an enemy called an Acolyte, it's again from realm667; they shoot a spiral of projectiles that is hard to dodge. They also have 150 HP, which makes the first level of classic Doom unplayable as the player can't kill the four that appears before he gets new weapons. I rigged them to drop energy cells so you'd have something to shoot in the plasma pistol.
Imp: Replaced with a trooper who fires quickly, I gave him more life to make him as tough as an imp, and he drops the Tommy gun. He is much more dangerous as his weapon is hitscan and rapid-fire; a skilled Doom player won't have much trouble with him but the Imp was so borring, he had to go, especially with his easily dodged attack. in regular play I found myself taking out hitscan enemies first so this is a logical step.
Demon: Replaced with a nifty "Slime Worm" that can spit an acid. Not too tough.
Spectre: Replaced with the "Flesh Wizard" -evil buggers who can disappear, zip around, and shoot a red ball. Not very hard to kill with a weapon you can stun them with but annoying as they can stay invisible for a while and pop back to bug you later. A good replacement for the spectre, especially since modern graphics hardware wasn't kind to him ;) Changes the balance of many stock and pseudo-stock maps as they often placed spectres in pits; may have to go.
Cacodemon: Unchanged.
Lost Soul: These truly annoying buggers have been replaced with a guy called a "Watcher" a smaller sort of Cacodemon, it fires a faster shot than a Caco but goes down just as easy as a Lost Soul. A good replacement; not as annoying, but just as challenging IMHO.
Hell Knight: Replaced with the Disciple of D'sparil from Heretic; not sure why I like these "priest" dudes but I put 'em in. They might have to go, since these guys too are possibly too strong, their "Meteor Swarm" attack can easily kill the player in one shot, and, while they have the same health as an HK, they also dissapear and such, making them annoying to fight too.
Baron of Hell: Replaced by a Belphegor, which is nothing more than a stronger Baron who can throw three shots in a row sometimes. A good challenge for the up-rated weapons but for some reason E1M8 won't respond to their deaths. The Belphegor originaly replaced the Demon but it was too powerful to kill in many places.
Arachanotron: Unchanged.
Pain Elemental: replaced by an "Afrit", a flying, fire-spewing Baron-of-Hell type demon. He can burn you quickly or shoot a meteor at you.
Mancubus: replaced by a monster called an Incubus; it can shoot *very* fast energy shots or missiles, and it has a ton more health. A good challenge for the uprated weapons, though the minigun fells it easily given enough time. It drops rockets and a large cell pack. It also breaks "Dead Simple" since the walls won't drop. At least you can just jump up and hit the switch. (Yay ZDoom :) )
Revenant: My most hated monster, I replaced him with a thing called a Ghoul, it shoots a fast energy shot in pairs and leaves a cloud of damaging gas on death, which you can use to your favor if you kill him someplace other monsters will want to go.
Arch-vile: replaced by a huge monstrosity called a "Terminator"; it has HP well into the thousands and weapons that can kill the player in one shot. It is a true challenge even with the strongest weapons and can easily prove that you shouldn't get overconfident with the assualt cannon you'll take from the first one you kill.
Spider Mastermind: unchanged.
Cyberdemon: Replaced with the "Hellsmith" (from Realm667 as all these guys were); a big black minotaur looking creature, it can kill the player probably too easily, especially the way you encounter it on some stock maps or WADs build for Cyberdemons; it can charge or use an area-effect attack; even killing it is dangerous as it has a "Death attack" that does tons of damage. But then again, in the Tower of Babel, you can keep your distance on him and slay him pretty easily, so it's more a matter of putting him in the right maps than anything.
End Boss: unchanged (Does anyone ever change ol' J.R.'s head on a stick?)
Nazi: Unchanged
Commander Keen: Unchanged (a good joke would be a simple mod to replace a monster or a weapon or something that also changed Keen to something really evil so it would surprise people ;) )

The main problems are that the enemies tend to be too strong for some weapons and otherwise too weak. The minigun tears up almost anything, especially with a given quantity of ammo. Some things, like the Disciple, are matter of "Oh, I've stunned it with the minigun and poof it's dead." or "Argh, I missed with my shotgun and now I'm dead." The Terminator, the Hellsmith, and some others basically can't be fought without the Minigun. I'm reluctant to simply increase monster health and decrease pain chances as the *player* only has so much health and doing so would render the early game completely unplayable. One of my ideas is to work out some drops, possibly for the Flesh Wizard or Disciple, that make the player stronger (such as giving 75% Damage Reduction like the shield in Heretic, or something else.) Any thought on that line of inquiry?

The other problem is that some weapons are useless -the regular Shotgun (though this was largely the case in vanilla Doom II), the pistol, the rocket launcher, the plasma pistol (though you WILL lean on it sometimes if you don't have anything better versus a heavy) becomes such after you get the plasma rifle, not that it's very useful to begin with. You'd think that having three Automatics would screw things up but each has its niche; the Thompson is a good primary when you're not using the SSG (depends on if you prefer an Automatic or a shotgun), the Minigun is an almost-too-good weapon for tough foes or masses of them, though you will run out of ammo if you use it all the time, and the Assault cannon comes out when you see something that make you shit your pants :) . The heavy rifle I find another offender of balance, though, but it needs reworking. its shots are powerful enough that it can take down lots of monsters and its rate of fire is too quick, a little slower than the stock rocket launcher.

Any and all help and advice is appreciated.

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I didn't read all that but welcome to DW! Always great to have fresh talent making new mods. Do you have a working prototype of your mod? It sounds pretty good. Unfortunately I have nothing useful to offer you in this post as I don't know anything about weapon modding. But what I read of your post sounded interesting and I'd be happy to playtest anything you have.

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I don't mean to discourage you but Doom is as balanced as I could want it to be.

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The best way to balance a weapons mod is to test and test often. Having outside people you trust to play the current version of your mod also helps, as they will point out things you might miss or not consider.

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It sounds to me like you should make maps specifically for this wad instead of testing on stock doom maps, as the balance in ammo drops and types has changed. If you want to balance it for doom's maps is your choice, although I'd rather see new maps with weapons than just new weapons.

Anyway as others have said without the wad to try stuff out I'm not sure how great anyone's advice will be.

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You put a bunch of monsters and weapons and then just ask for balance?

I also find it seriously unnatractive (why not add more monsters and make them randomly selected? You could have a lot more. Have all Mancubus be powerful Incubus sounds boring as hell to me).

Anyway. My main point is that balancing is a long process. And balancing through a bunch of randomly taken weapons and monsters put together... why? And even if you find out a reason, I don't think no one is willing to go through that balancing process for you.


Other than that.. well, uh, you are really just asking for what to TRY and balance. Go in the weapons, monsters, and change stuff. Their damage, health, sometimes speed, whatever. Tweak stuff, and try. Thats all there is to it. Trial and error until you can't take it anymore.

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Well it didn't take that guy long to get banned....

Anyway, I should clarify a few things; my original post got eaten and I forgot to point a few things out.
I do intend to write levels specifically for these things, but I want to get basic balance sorted before I go ahead and do that. I have never done weapons and monster mods before and it's been over ten years since I've written a DOOM level (I had no knowledge of DeHacked at that point so even changing things like rate of fire, etc., seemed arcane and magical to me then!) so I will basically need to re-learn a skill I barely had at the time once I decide to make the levels.

From what I've seen I'll also be able to put in more monsters (by making them valid entities but not making them REPLACE something); I've tried this and you can spawn whateverthehell monster or item you like from the console and pick it up or fight it. Great for testing.

I basically am just doing tons of playtesting now, using different WADs (as it stands it actually plays great on Hell Revealed right up untill City in the Clouds where there are just too many Incubi, which fall under the category of "monsters that can slaughter you in a second if they want to".

I was more looking for some general guidelines for balancing out monsters and weapons; how to make a stong weapon that's not overpowerful (currently the only thing making my minigun remotely balanced is its ammo usage; this is very realistic but not necessarily ideal in terms of gameplay.) If anyone is willing to playtest it I'd be glad to pack it all up (I'm patching on about a zillion wads in ZDoom) and put it somewhere, but I'm not trying to get anyone to do my job in that respect.

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Well ... if you don't mind sharing it I'll make a few test maps to play around with. I've been interested in learning doom in hexen format better anyway. And just so we're clear, do you want it to be balanced for vanilla doom wads? or for specific maps?

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There's not really much that anyone can say just by reading the descriptions, but a few things came to my mind: First, be careful with adding (any) extra ammo types. It probably isn't very realistic that the pistol and chaingun use the same ammo, or that the shotgun with 7 pellet shells and the ssg with 10 pellet shells use the same shells, but it really improves the gameplay by making ammo management easier.

Second, if you are planning to have this even somehow balanced for any maps, you really need to pay attention to the original weapon, ammo and monster balance. Of course, getting a perfect match can be impossible, but you can get close. For example, your rocket launcher replacement (if any) should be good at killing groups of low and mid tier monsters, just as the weapons that get ammo from new rocket ammo replacements should be. But if you use rockets to give ammo for a "basic weapon", you are certainly going to have problems with balance. An other example would be making bullets too good: Everyone knows that in Doom bullets aren't very strong (although the chaingun is very useful), and quite a few weapon mods insist on having powerful rapid fire weapons that use old ammo...which suddenly makes ammo a very good ammo and throws the balance completely around.

I'm reluctant to simply increase monster health and decrease pain chances as the *player* only has so much health and doing so would render the early game completely unplayable.

What you should do is decrease health and damage of the stronger monsters and make your overpowered weapons weaker.

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