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Super Jamie

Balancing for difficulty

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So I'm making my first map where I'm going to try balancing for the various difficulty levels, and I just realised I have no idea where to start.

The first idea that springs to mind is to use maths. If I place 4 monsters here on UV, I'll place 2 on HMP and 1 on HNTR or something like that. Obviously that sort of thing would need to be tailored for specific monster encounters (you can't put in a quarter or third of a single monster).

I could place easier monsters with similar skills. Following the skill progression above I could place a Chaingunner on UV, Sarge on HMP and a Zombieman on HNTR, for at least some of the monsters. Make Spectres into Demons for the easier levels. Replace Revenants with either a Hell Knight (no homing missiles) or an Imp (still a projectile monster, very easy).

Obviously place a bit more ammo and health, maybe chuck in an extra green armor for a big encounter on HNTR.

If I really wanted I could place voodoo dolls on certain skills only, and have W linedefs that raise/lower sectors to give the player a bit of extra cover from monsters, tho this seems a bit more work than I'd like to do. I'd also probably end up liking/hating the optional detail I add and want to keep/remove it regardless of skill level.

Do you guys have any rules of thumb you follow for difficulty balancing?

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Well. I go along the line that less skilled players enjoying shooting things too. So I try not to alter monsters too much, but add more powerups, ammo, health or earlier weapon placement on the lower difficulties.

I balance UV for a challenge to myself. Which means tight ammo and health balance (which I prefer over throwing hoardes of monsters) and work backwards for the other two difficulties.

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Being much more of a novice at Doom mapping than you, take that advice for what it's worth, especially as many have been critical of my appreciation of UV difficulty.

I've noticed on wads where HNTR and HMP are just "UV minus monsters", I tend to just play UV even if it's a bit over my head, and I've seen the same behavior from other players ; so instead, I try to make each difficulty completely different, starting from scratch rather than substracting or adding monsters from whatever difficulty. It also gives me the opportunity to have three different kind of gameplay for each map.

My rule of thumb is to balance based on my own skill, as follows :

- HMP as the main difficulty, provides a reasonable challenge but should be completable with a good success rate (possibly 100% after a while), without secrets. More atmospheric than the other difficulties as this is the first one I do (hence the one I balance the architecture around in the first place).
- UV as something completely over the top, that's going to require me either tons of tries or saves, use every trick and secret I know to get out barely alive.
- HNTR as a casual walk that should be playable with keyboard only without strafing (except for the eventual jump here and there).

Now, it's a time-consuming way to do things, and I wouldn't do it if I didn't like it.

Khorus' approach is great too, it works perfectly in Scythe 2's latter maps and takes much less time. Still, there's people for whom no amount of powerups will make a map playable if the opposition is too fierce, and that is something to keep in mind in my opinion, at least for the easy difficulty.

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I think I am favoring placing things then working out difficulties later, starting from scratch three times seems like alot work and I'm lazy so motivation is key :P Also the idea of alot of monsters with alot of health and ammo sounds actually quite fun on lower difficulties.

Balancing for challenge on HMP is a pretty cool thought. The idea that my own map on UV is impossible or at least very difficult for me is appealing, though I'd definitely need playtesters to help perfect UV unless I want to potentially make it "impossibly bullshit" difficulty. (and even then no doubt someone like Jodwin/tatsurdcacocaco will speedrun it and ArmouredBlood/gggmork will tyson it ;)

I'll have a look at MAP06 too.

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I'm really bad with difficulty levels, especially AFTER the map is done. Ordinarily, my method is that I at first place some zombie men and imps with a revenant or hell knight here and there, and playtest. If it's easy enough, I'll set all the monsters to all difficulties. Then throw in some extra imps and demons, and make them all easy and hard. Then work especially on my ideal set-up of monsters, and set them all to hard only.

And essentially think it's best to have a slight abundance of ammo and health in all difficutlies. A map can be dangerously hard if all the item placement is the same except that ammo is very tight. but the same thing placement can be pretty easy if you have plenty of ammo to get rid of.

In fact, come to think of it, you could make all skill levels have the same monsters, just easier difficulties making you better prepared for them due to health/ammo items.

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Im soon going to try to add different difficulties for my map also, but Im not looking forward to it :S

edit: I think I`ll keep the same monsters on HMP as on UV, but add some health and armor, maybe some ammo on HMP. MAYBE change a few monsters.

For skill 1 and 2, I`ll just remove some monsters from HMP.

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Super Jamie said:

(and even then no doubt someone like Jodwin/tatsurdcacocaco will speedrun it and ArmouredBlood/gggmork will tyson it ;)

Try tysoning ONE map a person makes and that person defines you by it (I even failed to tyson it -.-). I don't even like tysoning anything bigger than a hell knight. Make a slaughter map and then I'll be happy ;P

I think the health/ammo abundance way of balancing skill levels is easiest and least time consuming, I tried re-balancing that giant map for HMP/UV and it didn't work out very well. Now the next map is still a slaughter but you get to see the scenery in mostly greyscale on skills 1/2/3 ;)

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I always make my maps for UV first (I consider UV the "normal" level for my maps) and then make it easier for HMP and HNTR after a little bit of playtesting. For harder maps I often (but not always) leave the filler fights as is (like small traps, or fights with a few zombies in a straight hallway, etc) and only weaken the opposition in the bigger fights. Most of the time I don't touch ammo and health because reduced opposition means less need for health and ammo, so the UV amounts should be enough.

For easier maps that don't necessarily have any "main fights" I use the same idea as above but for all fights, fillers included. There's no real formula for it, but I don't like the idea of making HNTR too easy (one zombieman instead of four chaingunners, for example), because if you want a leisurely experience there's always ITYTD and IDDQD. :P

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Jodwin said:

Most of the time I don't touch ammo and health because reduced opposition means less need for health and ammo, so the UV amounts should be enough.

In Wolf3D mapping you have use this method, since ammo and health items have no variation for different skills (each item always appears). Only the monsters have skill settings.

Seems very valid for DOOM mapping too, and of course a lot easier if you don't need to worry (much) about the skills on pickup items.

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Also if you feel that you should put more ammo or health on UV, there might be something wrong with your map.* For example, that might mean your HMP is in more classic style and UV is in HR style, while you should be having similar gameplay style through all difficulty levels (unless you're intentionally making a map with multiple "modes", of course).

*Of course some exceptions do exist, for example if in HMP you had four mancs and in UV one cyber, you'll probably have to give more ammo on UV so that you can actually kill the cyber. It's never black and white, but as a general rule I stand by what I just wrote above. :P

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Four mancs is definitely harder than a cyberdemon. A mancubus fires 2 projectiles at a time in 3 round bursts that do nearly the same damage as rockets (Not to mention there are 4 seperate targets that need to be focused on) while the cyberdemon shoots single rockets in 3 round bursts. The cyberdemon has extra health and splash damage on it's side but that shouldn't really be much of a factor unless the room is small. But if the room is small 4 mancs should be even MORE of a threat.

6 Demons aren't harder than an archvile because the ammo consumption is higher. While it sounds weird I think it would make more sense to put 4 mancs on UV and the cyberdemon on HMP given how much health each of the two scenarios can dish out. If it were a Manc and a couple of Hell barons then it would make more sense.

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