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What makes a good WAD?

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What aspects of level design do you think make a good WAD? Here are some ideas I've come up with at I know I keep in the back of my head when I build.

pacing - 99% of the WADs I d/l and play are just non-stop blasting. I've found this makes levels banal and uninteresting. when every door you open and every corner you turn leads to more enemies, nothing is surprising, and so things get boring very quickly. i think that you should really pick your battles and not make every single room be packed with monsters.

navigation - easy on the doors and lifts. when running around a level, having to constantly open doors can break up the pace, and divides the level up into awkward chunks. so I try not to use too many.

difficulty - i think that in order for a doom level to be good it's better to be fairly easy. I've found that these days there's so much Doom out there that once I die at one spot 3 or 4 times i usually get bored or frustrated and either start IDDQD'ing if not just clipping my way through the WAD to see if there's anything worth seeing and then delete it and move on to the next. It's no longer a sign of a good builder if you can make a level hard IMO. anyone can do it. the real trick is making the level fun, which usually means being able to advance through it at a fairly quick pace. i don't think this is an absolute as I've played through plenty of challenging and enjoyable WADs in my time, but gameplay has to be pretty interesting in order for it to feel like the difficulty is not just because of poor level design.

plenty of health - i think playing Halo taught me that it's much more fun to start each battle fully healed. endless WADs where Ive played through with 12% health constantly because there's nothing but a few stimpacks here and there and the only medkits are in secrets has also contributed to this idea. it's better to be able to be chewed up a bit each battle and still be able to come out all-right, instead of having to play each fight perfectly.

plenty of room - Oi, I hate fighting in tight spaces. it's just a cheap way to up the difficulty. a marine needs room to dodge for sure.

don't rob the reward - that is, don't have all the walls open with huge waves of monsters appear whenever the player nabs a soul sphere or rocket launcher, etc. It just leads to frustration at having the advantage you just gained gone as soon as you get it. there's nothing more annoying then losing all that extra health or having to use all the ammo you just received 3 seconds after you get it.

agree/disagree? anyone else have any ideas?


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just read /newstuff reviews. You'll be able to determine good from bad through that. That's what I did.

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I think the stuff you listed is really about personal preference. As for me:

pacing - Agree

navigation - Somewhat Agree

difficulty - Somewhat Agree

plenty of health - Disagree

plenty of room - Disagree

don't rob the reward - Somewhat Agree

I think a lot of people are going to want to kill you for the last four.

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NaturalTvventy said:


This depends a lot on a few different factors. First of all, the kind of map you're aiming to map: If you're going to make a horror map, you obviously need to pace the fights carefully. On the other hand, in a HR-esque map you can get away with being more generous on monsters. And with "normal" maps it varies. An other factor in addition to map style is the quality of your fights. If your fights are good, fun and interesting then you can put more of them in your map. But if your fights are made up of facing barons in perfectly straight corridors...please, make it stop.

A tightly paced map can be good as long as the fights are good, and as long as it fits the map's theme.

NaturalTvventy said:


This is pretty much true. See which doors could be made to stay open and so on. Besides, having a lot of doors means your spaces are very small, whilst big, open spaces often help making better fights and improve the atmosphere.

NaturalTvventy said:


WRONG. Easy, medium or hard, which ever it is, has little to do with how fun the map is*. A map is fun as long as...well, the map is fun. A hard map can be just as fun, what matters is how the map is designed. Just as well an easy map can be horribly boring and uninteresting if it's badly made. You also seem to be assuming that hard maps are horribly slow to play, which is, again, wrong. Of course they are slow to play if you're not as skilled, but keep in mind that there's quite a few people out there that can beat those hard maps just as fast as you can go through easy maps. Also, being able to make a map hard has never been a sign of a good mapper. Anyone can make a map where you need to fist ten cybers in narrow spaces which is, should I say, pretty fucking hard, but really, really horrible in the gameplay aspect.

*Of course, difficulty is one thing where personal preferences do have a big part. Some people enjoy being challenged, while others enjoy easy strolls in the park. In regards to difficulty, there is no silver bullet.

NaturalTvventy said:

plenty of health

Again, wrong. Health as well depends on what you're going for design-wise. In HR-esque maps where the emphasis is on single challenging fights, being able to recharge for each encounter can be a good idea. But in some kinds of maps, such as the "normal" maps it's often better to not keep the player on full health at all times, since managing your health and surviving under pressure are also parts of the gameplay experience. There's little as awesome as managing to trek through an infested tech base on 25% or less health and finally managing to find a stash of one-two medikits. It's a great feeling, that has its places. Not something that should be overdone, definitely, but it's not inherently wrong either.

Also, one problem with always giving full health after each fights is that you're nullifying the effects of making mistakes. Being able to screw up in a fight and then going out on max should be impossible, unless you played the beginning of the map perfectly (so that you had plenty of health stashed away in earlier parts).

NaturalTvventy said:

plenty of room

Tight spaces have their place (:P), but for the most part you're right.

NaturalTvventy said:

don't rob the reward

Unless you were given the ammo or health for that fight in particular. True, a trap that completely negates the items given are often bad, but you need to tell the difference between traps and fights that aren't traps.

40Oz said:

just read /newstuff reviews. You'll be able to determine good from bad through that. That's what I did.


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A weird thing about me seems to be that I almost always dislike the WADs that are praised by the doom community. In most cases I find them incredibly boring. They look beautiful, but have nothing more to offer for me.

On the other hand, I really enjoyed an old WAD from the mid-nineties, in which you ran around in a magic forest on a flying rock high in the sky, shooting imps and dragons. Sometimes the leveldesign was strange, it was pretty hard at some points, the textures were often unaligned... you could tell that it was a really old wad. But it was creative and interesting and kept me playing quite a while.

So I want to say that in my opinion a good WAD doesn`t need to have overly beautiful graphics or incredibly genius leveldesign and enemy placement or whatever, it has to be interesting in the first place to be played by me. Why for example making another techbase level when you can pick a different, more interesting location, like a *thinks for a second* hellish disco? Okay, that was pretty dumb, but I think you got my point.
I am sure that I am not the only who thinks this way. Or maybe I am just weird.

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yea i agree. the old wads had oddly-shaped rooms and more interesting monster placement quite often, as opposed to today's 'good' wads that tend to follow the same standard agreed-upon progression.

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I wouldn't really care how a map looks as long as it's fun to play and it's not just some massive room with mismatched/missing textures and like 80000000 Cyberdemons. I'm getting a lot better with Doom Builder so I could make a map to show off my "Ideal" map. I wouldn't mind a Cyber or a Mancubus as a boss at the end of a chapter or episode - or even a map - but there's no need for 50 mancs and 25 cybers in a level. I also wouldn't mind some puzzles and ambushes as long as they aren't overdone. I also started Dooming on Doom 2, so I'm tolerant of the new monsters and the SSG.

Also, some creative decorative aspects would be fine by me.

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Pacing: agree in that a level is more interesting if it has varying levels of intensity, alternating between frantic fights and calmer areas. Gives some breathing space to refocus, and also allows to build tension before the next fight. Ideally, the action parts should become more and more hectic, with the climax reached just before the exit.

Doesn't mean the exploration parts have to be empty, however. There can still be some monsters to shoot, but nothing really threatening to a seasoned space marine. Former humans are good for that, since they can be used to replenish the player's ammo before a big fight without making it too easy like just putting a bunch of ammo pickups.

Navigation: I like doors that stay open forever. Locked doors especially ought to be of that variety. When doors are deliberately used to break the flow of progression, consider using crushers instead; they give the same effect of forcing the player to stop and wait a bit before they can pass, but they bring a dynamic and tactical angle that plain doors don't give.

Remember that a cheap player can abuse doors -- especially locked doors -- to maximize infighting while minimizing threat, something which I call the door game. Just mash the "activate" key to open and close a door quickly so it raises at most to the height of your ankles. The monsters behind it will hiss and start their attack routine in the brief window of opportunity you give them, but the door will be closed by the time they actually shoot. Their hitscans and projectiles won't hit you, but they'll hit other monsters.

Difficulty: avoid fake difficulty such as teleporting a player in the middle of a compact group of revenants and other situations where you need either an invulnerability powerup or a shit ton of luck to retake control of the situation. As long as there are fair ways to defeat (or skip!) the opposition, it's fine.

Health: I don't have a problem with limited health, but it should be quickly apparent if the level is meant to be played cautiously to preserve your health or not. E.g. not having medikit after the first important fight could be a signal or something.

Room: yes, few things are more annoying that being constrained by walls and stuff.

Trapped rewards: those are exceedingly cheap and predictable after a while. If the player starts charging up the BFG the moment he picks up a soulsphere in a secret alcove, there's something wrong with the level.

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