The /newstuff Chronicles #362

Belial said:

I don't think that was implemented at the time.

Monster families have been implemented in ZDoom at the time support for Doom 2 and its Hell Knight was added. :p

The only thing new that has been added since is the "species" property that allows to define monster families outside of inheritance.

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Graf Zahl said:

Amazing how some idiots can take a statement and make it sound like the total opposite of what it's supposed to mean just because then it fits better into their narrowminded worldview.


Well I figured you would like to have a taste of your own medicine. :)

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Cjwright79 just keeps talking


Cj, I would really like to see a demo recording of you playing one of your own maps. Just load one up with "-record asdf" in the command line and play it through. Don't try to construct a speedrun or anything, just play naturally, and then upload the demo for us. See, one's taste in levels is not a fixed thing, and thus any differences in taste that we have are not intractible. Rather, one's taste in gameplay gradually moves closer to the norm for Doomers as one gets better at the game.

You see what I'm implying.

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Creaphis said:

Cj, I would really like to see a demo recording of you playing one of your own maps. Just load one up with "-record asdf" in the command line and play it through. Don't try to construct a speedrun or anything, just play naturally, and then upload the demo for us. See, one's taste in levels is not a fixed thing, and thus any differences in taste that we have are not intractible. Rather, one's taste in gameplay gradually moves closer to the norm for Doomers as one gets better at the game.

You see what I'm implying.


I do. Now then, a caveat: I noticed that many comments on last summer's wads said 'too easy', so since Maniacal, I've catered to these concerns, rather than my own preferences. That said I'll give my hardest wad a go, on UV.

Results: (PrBoom+) about five deaths, couldn't beat the level. But this is as it should be. I was dismayed at how effortlessly Phml was making it through my maps so Astican has a really ruthless bent to it. Anyway I would love to see you guys do better! And Creaphis I insist you show me your demo. :)

Oh yeah and here's the wad.

Anyway I do enjoy a challenge.

EDIT: Ah yes I do believe our tastes are intractable. I've been systematically playing everything recommended to me and it's just not my style, although I can see why it's considered the best out there. Everything has elements that I like, but the overall design scheme does not suit my tastes enough for me to actually want to keep playing. That said I don't think the original DOOM2 maps are that great either.

And no this doesn't mean I can't understand why you guys don't unanimously like everything I've made. I continue to endeavour to create something more agreeable.

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Cjwright79 said:

And Creaphis I insist you show me your demo. :)


Here's my first-attempt demo. I recorded it with GZDoom 1.4.3, because I know that you usually test your wads in GZDoom and I figured that was the intended playing field - but I just now noticed that you recorded your demo in PrBoom+! (I avoided watching your demo before recording mine, so that I could go into the wad knowing as little about it as possible.) Our difference in port choice means I might have had a slight advantage over you (eg. with the BLOCKMAP bug fixed in GZDoom more of my hitscan attacks met their targets), but it hopefully didn't make too big a difference.

Anyways, my stats for the demo are:
100% 100% 100%
About 18 minutes running time
0 deaths

It's a tricky level - I suffered some very close calls, mostly because of all of the archviles that sneak up behind you. It's mostly quite fun and challenging, but gets repetitive at the end, and see: this is the point I'm trying to prove. A sufficiently skillful (and cowardly) player can defuse virtually all of the hostile situations in your wads by forcing monsters to gather in choke points, and by hightailing it back the way he came whenever he triggers a trap. Using this same tactic over and over becomes boring. While it's true that I was suffering just a bit too much damage during my play-through to become bored, if I were to play it again I would find it boring as I already know where all the archviles are hidden, and would beat the level with the simple reapplication of run-and-hide tactics.

So then, how does one design a level to please this skillful player, who is bored of slaughtering random mixes of monsters in flat rooms, and of hiding behind doors, and of run-and-hide traps? By constructing maps around complex and unique encounters. This produces maps much like the favourites that have already been mentioned in this thread. Architecture becomes much more complex and varied, so that monsters can be placed more creatively and variably, thus creating new and interesting gameplay situations. Also, architecture becomes more compact overall - if all opponents are pushed closer to the player, then the player is under greater threat, and will be more interested in the challenge. This, unfortunately, comes at the cost of the "free running" which you hold so dear. While large, open spaces can still exist in "mainstream" wads, gameplay will usually still be designed so that every inch of those spaces are necessary to hold the monsters in their complex configuration, and to give the player just enough room to dodge and fight. No space is wasted.

I'm sorry, Cjwright79, but you are not this skillful player, and it is because you are not this skillful player that you still find maps like the ones you make so enjoyable. You have not discovered some hidden apex of Doom mapping. Rather, you have stubbornly sat down at the side of the path of aesthetic development. Most of us have also come to the point on this path, where you sit, peddling your wares, but we kept going. We're still traveling. You could begin traveling again, if you so wish. As your skills improve, you'll also start to find it dull to clear monsters from large, flat spaces and to shoot under doorways. You'll crave something meatier. You'll hungrily consume Scythe 2, Alien Vendetta, and other challenging wads with complex architecture and fight choreography that is creative, varied, and tight as a drum.

If you're feeling moved by this and actually want to work on your player skills then I have to suggest deathmatching. Nothing trains your aim and movement skills better than the most dangerous game.

Cjwright79 said:

That said I don't think the original DOOM2 maps are that great either.


This statement surprises me. I've been trying to think of maps similar in style to yours and some of Sandy Peterson's maps, such as Suburbs, are not too different. Another thing his maps have in common with yours is that they are not universally loved.

A map with wide-open spaces that manages to get good reviews is Run Buddy.

EDIT: Alright, I watched your demo now, and while your aim and movement are clumsy, they're not really what's holding you back. Rather, you need to work on your observation and spatial awareness, so that first you see every danger that surrounds you, and that second you can mentally keep track of where all those dangers are, so that you don't suddenly get killed by an enemy you forgot about. You also need to work on "shepherding." While Doom monsters won't always cooperatively get into a nice herd for you, what you can do is kill outlying and isolated monsters (the strays) first so that all remaining monsters can be seen all at once, and will thus be more safely dealt with. Related to the above, you need to work on target prioritization - I notice that you have a harmful tendency to fixate on particular monsters while other, more dangerous and more mobile monsters are still alive. Kill the most dangerous monsters first, then clean up the little guys and outlying targets, and leave the slow ammo drainers like barons and cacodemons for last. Finally, have some prudence about how you proceed through a map. You barge into a new trap while you're still dealing with the old one. Play carefully, and remember: skillful play isn't playing like a cowboy. It is that which produces victory.

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Well that settles it: you are not my target audience. I will never, ever produce claustrophobic maps for the sake of methodical players. And besides, I don't expect anyone to play my maps more than once in a moderate period of time. That's not the idea at all.

EDIT: Just watching the demo. Zdoom looks better and is smoother than what I've been using (GZDoom and then PrBoom+). Perhaps there is some room for agreement afterall. Will see..

EDIT2: Yeah I had a much easier time in Zdoom, and that was before I was turned full Mouselook on. With this new approach we'll see if my next map isn't more compelling for you, though it will certainly not be tightly spaced. I just hate that.

EDIT3: Yeah, just finishing watching your demo. A few points...

1. Thanks for obliging, I learned a lot.
2. Namely, I need to make my maps prudence-proof, like you said. Astican was my first conscientious attempt at this, but it was not a uniform success. I was delighted whenever the Archviles caught you unaware mind you. And the one in the underground is not so simple to defeat, even when you know where he is. You have to get through the imps to get to him, and they can be deadly in their own right.
3. Looks to me like you had a good time (at least some of the time). Endangered but not defeated. That's what I want.

Anyway I'll have to have you playtest my next map. I get so bored replaying the same rooms that I can't stand the prudent approach, but for first timers it makes all the sense in the world. Thanks again. This may work out afterall...

EDIT4: As for Runbuddy, I shall just say that I was none too shocked to learn that it was released in 1998.

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Gez said:

...
Cjwright79 is entitled to receive nothing but glowing praise for his worthy efforts. Anything else will result, justly, in thread derailment about the lack of social grace exhibited by certain people.


'Twas a fine post.

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It looks like a couple more things could use clarification.

Cjwright79 said:

Well that settles it: you are not my target audience. I will never, ever produce claustrophobic maps for the sake of methodical players.


If I thought you should try to map for the "methodical" player then I never would have said anything, because, as it stands, your maps are well suited to methodical play. Open door, get monsters' attention, kill as they get come, lather, rinse, repeat. Rather, I'm encouraging you to map for the skilled player, and while the skilled player may use these methods to survive, he only does so when the map hands him the opportunity on a silver platter. The essence of designing levels for skilled players is to defeat method - to make the use of these methods impossible. Instead of allowing the player to take it easy behind his doorway, design your architecture in such a way that the player is forced to leap into action, to fight creatively, to think on his feet. How? Well, that's what the level designer has to figure out. I think Astican.wad starts with a really good fight - the player faces a few monster types in an interesting configuration, and can't avoid the fight, of course, because it's the level start. Some other fights are also presented well. But then, at the end, the player can do most of his fighting from a doorway's protective aura. The player is allowed to use his method, and because it's safer he probably will, and then he'll get bored. Who exactly is the target audience for this sort of level design? Sure, it might be challenging, interesting, dynamic, etc., to just throw safety out the window and charge through every door you see, but to enjoy a map in this way you have to choose to play badly. Since I stopped relying on save games, this is a choice I never want to make.

EDIT: Looks like you figured this out already.

Cjwright79 said:

it will certainly not be tightly spaced. I just hate that.


I just read over what I wrote regarding "compactness" of architecture and it does seem like I'm advocating that it be as cramped as possible. Let me explain a little bit better what I really wanted to say.

Take a cruise through some levels of a popular megawad, with idclip, iddqd, idclev, or all three. (I was going to save you the trouble by posting a screenshot from Scythe2.wad but I couldn't choose a favourite.) What you'll see is that there are plenty of large, open areas that couldn't be called "claustrophobic" by any stretch of the imagination. However, these areas are still what I would call "compact," not because the player can only move two feet in any direction, but because they aren't bigger than they should be. A well-designed open area has different opponents in different positions, some on ground level, perhaps others up on perches; different levels of architecture that each need to be navigated in turn; gameplay elements like keys and supplies in different positions that one must work to reach, etc. Maybe the player has to fight some massive fight here and needs a lot of space to do it. Anyways, in one way or another, as the player moves through this area, pretty much all space is somehow used. I would even say that your own Bad Bethlehem has good examples of "useful" open space; when the level starts and the player is low on ammo, the large spaces serve as the setting for an interesting treasure hunt, and the player will move through them all while intently searching and fending off attacks from above and from ground level. But, when the player reaches the second-last area of astican.wad, and manages to empty the entire massive area of monsters from within ten feet of the doorway, and wanders out and sees that the room is pretty much just flat with not a lot going on... what's the point of extra space? What's it useful for?

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Acknowledged. I think all this comes down to testing in PrBoom. But the proof will be in the pudding...

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Adding onto the massive Creaphisrant, here are some ideas nicked from a certain awesome textfile.

+ 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

+ 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.

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Who knew the ideal gas law could so accurately describe the playability of Doom?

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I feel like I need to one-up that. SO I WILL

Creaphis' incompleteness theorum:

+ If you ever feel that something you've created is both consistent (ie. consistent with your artistic vision) and complete (ie. a finished product) then you're wrong, as this is impossible in any sufficiently complex artistic medium.

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Creaphis said:

I feel like I need to one-up that. SO I WILL

Creaphis' incompleteness theorum:

+ If you ever feel that something you've created is both consistent (ie. consistent with your artistic vision) and complete (ie. a finished product) then you're wrong, as this is impossible in any sufficiently complex artistic medium.

Addenuum: The more times you 'finish' a project, the less finished it will be. (OCD is a nightmare :P)

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Gez said:

In the "short and fun" category, I've just recently discovered Scimitar while randomly browsing the /idgames archive. Very good! Small but challenging maps.


I'm still alive, announced start of work on a half life (2) ish map about a million days ago. It's right pesky having a job and shit, not enough time for important dooming! bah. Thanks for your kind words though, i spent about 20 months bleeding over Scimitar and still think I could have done better, just wish people would record some Max demos on the set as it's practically designed for running...

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