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SandGator

Advice for new mapmaker

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I've never made a map, for anything, in my life. The relative ease with which Doom maps can be constructed has enticed me.

I have Doom Builder, watched and followed along with the tutorial videos, and am ready to take my tentative, awkward steps into this brave new world.

I don't have lofty ambitions, I plan on just using standard Doom II textures and whatnot for now.

So, please, any advice is welcome. I know it's a nebulous topic, interpret it as you want: common newbie mistakes, sound weapon placement, whatever. I have minimal programming knowledge, so any code-related stuff will sail over my head.

And don't worry, I don't plan on inflicting my early efforts on anyone but myself.

Thanks!

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Welcome to the mapping community! You won't have to worry about programming/coding unless you get into the really fancy stuff like Zdoom mapping.

My only word of advice would be to start out simple and work your way up at a comfortable pace.

And feel free to show us what you've got!

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SandGator said:

common newbie mistakes


Well, your starting small with default textures, and asking for suggestions. Your already doing better than this guy

Just be sure to go at your own pace, and no big projects. At least with the intention of releasing them. Its a common trap many new mappers fall into.

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LOL that guy failed terribly, he was getting nowhere...

And thats a good tip to you, its all about quality, not quantity. That 'guy' made that mistake........

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SandGator said:

And don't worry, I don't plan on inflicting my early efforts on anyone but myself.

So long as you are willing to accept feedback and criticism there's nothing wrong with sharing your first maps on the forums. It might even help your skill progress faster; just don't expect unanimous praise or anything right away.

As for advice, I have a few points off the top of my head. Most of these are probably down to personal taste, but I think they're relevant to people who have just started mapping:

  • Don't forget to flag your door tracks as "Lower Unpegged", so that they don't move up and down with the door. The sooner you get used to doing this by reflex, the better, because ofrgettign to do this is one of the hallmarks of shoddy mapping.
  • When building the map geometry, keep in mind the scale of the player and enemies, and the speed that the player moves. When you first start, you'll probably be inclined to make lots of tight spaces and small rooms; but if they're too cramped then they're no fun to play in. If you know what you're doing you can effectively make a cramped map work, but good maps usually need a large amount of open space.
  • Don't worry about emulating real-life structures, but unless you want to go in a very abstract direction, you should at least try to use architecture and texture choices that convey a sense of 'place'. It's tough to describe this, but it should eventually come somewhat naturally if you're inclined to this sort of design.
  • Try to avoid making maps that are a largely just a series hallways; these tend to be boring, and it usually makes for better gameplay and navigation if the focus of your design on the rooms themselves, and how they're connected to each other.
  • Start small; try designing several short maps (ie. 5-10 minutes to complete) that play well before attempting a longer map.
  • Don't spoon-feed all the weapons, health, and ammo to the player; try to place these things so that the player is motivated to move around the map and find them.
  • On that same note though, don't hide the first (non-pistol) weapon of the map too much. Many players hate having to use the pistol to take out more than a few zombies and imps, so if you want to pander to these people you should let the player grab a shotgun, or a berserk pack, or something fairly early on.
  • Don't call your maps "Vanilla compatible" if you only test them with ZDoom, or Skulltag, or whatever.
  • Ask for help from the community if you can't understand something, but before you do that, at least try to figure it out yourself first, and remember that both Google and the forum search function are often your friends.
I can also think of some slightly more technical distinctions that people might not realize, though I won't go into too much detail:
  • The "Block sound" line flag isn't as simple as it might look. Sound can actually travel across one of these lines, but it will be stopped when it hits a second one. So practically, if you want to block sound from an area, you'll often want to use two layers of these lines in the same place, but you can use single layers of them to seperate the map into `combat zones`, so that monsters will progressively wake up ahead of you as you move forward, but not through the entire map.
  • The 'deaf' thing flag (more properly called the 'ambush' flag) doesn't actually make monsters deaf. They can still hear your attacks the same as the other enemies, but they won't activate until you're within their 'line of sight'. The distinction between this behaviour and that of enemies that haven't yet heard you at all is that the deaf-flagged monsters 'know you're coming' and gain the ability to see you approach from any angle, not just from the front. The point is that once a 'deaf' monster has heard you, you can't sneak up from behind, so don't be surprised if enemies that you thought you set to be 'deaf' seem to have eyes on the back of their heads.
  • Secret areas (as counted on the intermission screen) are created with sector effect "9 - Secret", not by the "secret" line flag. This line flag is useful for putting on secret doors, though, as it makes them look like a regular wall on the automap, and it stops monsters from opening the secret on their own.
  • Sector effect "8 - Light Glows (1+ sec)" might be tough to understand too, as it doesn't simply "glow". It needs a surrounding sector of lower light level, and it'll then smoothly shift between the two light levels.

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The first thing I mapped was the main floor of my house. I could just turn around and look at an area to visualize how to sector it. After some practise you'll be able to 'see' more complex sectoring without actually needing a real example.

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Thamuzzz said:

And thats a good tip to you, its all about quality, not quantity. That 'guy' made that mistake........


That's actually not entirely true. i'd advise releasing several regular doom maps as a new mapper and reading people's responses to them. That way you'll get a feel for what people are into, what you do that is good, what you do that is not very well received, then you can proceed to work on more sophisticated projects.

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Be open to feedback and criticism, it will help a lot.

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@40oz: well i went straight in and made sure the stuff i made was well detailed, and ive mostly got my tips and techniques from playing other maps.... and a shitload of practise. To be honest the best way to get better is to keep using doom builder, you catch on real quick about what looks right and what looks terrible.... practise makes perfect, thats how i work.

Btw are you the 40oz that made UAC Ultra??

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Thamuzzz said:

Btw are you the 40oz that made UAC Ultra??


Yeah, but I made a ton of individual single player maps before I made it

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You just have to keep mapping. A big reason making a lot of maps is helpful is that a big barrier is getting used to the tools, once you're comfortable with DB it'll be a lot easier to make more organic maps. I find it very useful to think of an idea for a map instead of just starting up DB and trying to make cool stuff. By idea I mean things like "hellish temple embedded in a mountain" type thing.

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If you make some maps and then immediately think of ways to make something better, you don't have to bother posting them (if you don't want to). However, as others have said, feedback is really important. As long as you don't take anything personally, and DO take harsh criticism with a grain of salt, you will get a lot of direction on how to improve your mapping. I can honestly say that my skills greatly improved when I was mapping for the Heretic Treasure Chest. I made a kinda shitty heretic map and submitted it, and it got torn apart. At first I was frustrated when the leader was like "This is crap, try again." But then I decided to try again - made a new map from scratch, and tried harder to make it look nice (although it wasn't over-the-top detail, which is not necessary) and play well. The transition between those two maps was a pretty big leap, and they enjoyed my second attempt much more.

So, if you do create something and feel that it's pretty good, do share it, so everyone can rip it apart :D

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I'd say the best advice I can give is make lots of things to do in the map.

Here's a list of examples, i personally put all of these in each map :

Lots of switches, pointless or not, to give the player something to do.
Lots of monsters to shoot to give the player a reason to use the ammo you give him/her.
Lots of places to explore, out of need to find keys, or need to find health and ammo.
A place to admire and look at.
Lots of secrets to look for.

What i'm trying to say is, it's a game so make it really interactive, that's the best way to reward the player.

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In the beginning I would map for vanilla (by that I mean no new weapons/monsters/textures, but you can use whatever port you want). This is so that you get a good feel for design quickly.

I would also get comfortable with mapping and try to develop your own unique style before you ask for advice from anyone else. After you've gotten to the point where you can make decent maps, share and get criticism. I advise waiting because if you ask for advice right as you begin mapping you might copy someone else's advice without really getting a feel for the kind of maps you enjoy making/what kind of style you actually like. Mapping is art in a way so you should be liberal with your ideas at first.

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