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DoomUK

Doom II's level design is antiquated

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Hookay, I know I'm a little late in the day with this but I stumbled over Gamespot's review of Doom II for the Xbox360 which, according to the author, asserts modern shooters have so much more to offer in the level design department. The following passage is particularly disconcerting:-

Gamespot said:

One thing you can't really adjust to here is the antiquated level design. At some point between 1994 and today, game designers seem to have realized that making players wander around mazelike levels collecting keys and hunting for doors to open isn't always enjoyable, but Doom II's levels are built on precisely this concept. Things can quickly get frustrating when you find yourself going in circles trying to figure out how to proceed or consulting the minimap to determine where you're supposed to go next.

What. People don't like to be able to explore and be challenged anymore? Makes sense I guess. Linear level design is disturbingly fashionable in FPS' these days, and even sandbox-y shooters like Crysis (1) and Stalker have some kind of navigational aid which tell you where you're supposed to go. If wanting to figure out for myself where I'm supposed to go is antiquated then I guess my tastes are antiquated. I mean sure, technical restrictions meant that Doom's levels were confined to mazelike environments with switches as opposed to vast landscapes with an array of objectives to complete, but nevertheless this remains part of it's appeal and is, to me, still more fun than what the majority of contemporary shooters have to offer.

While the person who wrote this is perhaps just an idiot whose opinion is in the minority, reviews like this on well-established websites such as Gamespot feel like official statements on what people want out of games today, and since there's a market for uninspired linear shooters they will continue to be produced. While I'm not one of these guys who hates all modern shooters and games in general, no one is willing to take a risk and do something different.

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Yes sir, I sure do miss the days where I spent hours lost in levels wondering what I was supposed to do next.

Sorry. There are things I miss about id's early 90's attitude toward game design, but 'confusing abstract levels' isn't among them. What you are calling "Challenge" is what most people call bad game design.

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Dude should by a shepherd dog, an armlet and sun glasses... this would increase his navigational skill for sure.

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Captain Red said:

Yes sir, I sure do miss the days where I spent hours lost in levels wondering what I was supposed to do next.

Sorry. There are things I miss about id's early 90's attitude toward game design, but 'confusing abstract levels' isn't among them. What you are calling "Challenge" is what most people call bad game design.

Please tell me you're joking.

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It might be antiquated, yes. Actually, I do agree on that. Sometimes the game can get frustrating when you spend hours looking for where to go and etc. On the other hand, everything is part of the challenge and I find it pretty adequate if the path you should actually head to isn't an mind-boggling puzzle.

To be honest, I find it pretty funny how fussy modern first person shooters can get, having hours of sissy and silly introductions, videos, cutscenes and etc. To even that up, they all have completely linear routes and paths to go. How come...

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DoomUK said:

Please tell me you're joking.

I'm not really interested in having a dick wave about how good I am at old video games son, but There are people who post on these very forums and have done so for YEARS who admit that they've never actually finished Doom II without no clipping. You know why? Because the maps become cluster fucks of adventure game logic to get to the end of. Remember "The Living End (map29)"? you actually had to find a hidden door to finish that god damn map.

How about in Final Doom Plutiona "Impossible Mission (map22)"? You had to push a button to raise a platform to shoot some walls with demon faces on them to open a door someplace. The only clue was the button raised a platform. A puzzle like that had never come up before, nor was used since. It took me and my brother hours to work it out. A stupid puzzle out of absolutely nowhere.

While I don't think Doom would be improved with CoD like linear levels, It could learn a few things from modern video game design.

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Coming from a heavy D&D background (playing since early 80's), I found the mazelike maps a pure joy to explore and lose myself in. Sometimes the map IS the challenge, even going so far as to dangle visible secrets in front of your face, taunting you. ;)

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hex11 said:

Sometimes the map IS the challenge

This is precisely what I believe in. And for me, it was half of the appeal of Doom. I'm sorry Captain Red, but I like to feel like I'm getting my money's worth out of a game when it takes me ages to complete it and I rack my brain trying to figure stuff out. If I want to be thrilled for a couple of hours before a conclusion is reached then I'll watch a movie.

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Making secretes hard to find are fine. They are after all, secretes. But the goal of "get to the exit" should not be something that takes hours of banging ones head ageist a wall to achieve. The odd puzzle can make things interesting, but there has to be a logic to it. The developers need to sitting down and thinking "is this something someone a sane person will solve?" is the difference between the Monkey Island games and Kings Quest games. The two examples I posted before are more on the side of Kings Quest logic.

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I can sort of see where this point of view comes from, despite my massive bias in favour of Doom and Doom II. I come across the occaissional puzzle or section in some maps (particularly ZDoom maps from the first half of 2000-2009, if I'm honest) that are incredibly difficult to solve or beat and I find myself not enjoying them, so I just cheat to skip them.

Maze-y levels I can live with quite happily though, as exploration is a big part of Doom for me. Modern FPS games do largely lack any kind of exploration factor.

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There's a difference between a few examples of doing it wrong here and there and the whole level design being faulty. Characterizing Doom level design by the few times a switch isn't obvious would be the same as characterizing linear shooter design by the few times an essential script doesn't play correctly.

This article just seems to bash Doom level design as a whole, which is an odd stance to take as there isn't any non-linear shooters these days to compare linear shooters with. Graphisms, multiplayer and pseudo-realism are, I think, much better reasons to explain people enjoy (i.e.) the latest CoD than Doom. Perhaps it can be argued some streamlining is necessary for a given level of quality, as making things non-linear require much more time and resources, but going from that to assume linear is superior makes about as much sense to me as considering fast food as the finest food simply because it's much faster to get to the customer than at a traditional restaurant.

By the way, I do eat and enjoy both fast food and linear shooters, so that's not some kind of pretentious moral high ground thing going on here. It's just the confusion between popularity and quality, with an additional layer of pairing the wrong causes with specific consequences, that I disagree with.

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hex11 said:

Coming from a heavy D&D background (playing since early 80's), I found the mazelike maps a pure joy to explore and lose myself in. Sometimes the map IS the challenge, even going so far as to dangle visible secrets in front of your face, taunting you. ;)


I second this. Always liked the first-person dungeon/maze concept.

That reminds me... what are some wads with huge maze-like levels with tons of secrets where it's easy to get lost?

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I have no issue with Doom II's level design. I can see where some find fault with it, but the maps reflect the principles of the game itself. Thinking back on all the maps I've played so far, the glut of them hearkening back to 1994-1996, I believe that most if not all of them reflect an emphasis on exploration and adventure gaming to varying degrees, with Jim Flynn's maps circa 1995 (especially MANOR) taking the concept to the farthest point. Even recent stuff I've played (2011) shows love for this aspect of Doom's gameplay.

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There's a big difference between non-linear map design and running around a map for ages confused about what to do next. Doom II has much of the former but little of the latter in my view. Modern FPSs have very little of the former.

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The Gamespot author's apparent lack of skill reminds me of how when I watched David Lynch's Dune back when I was 11, I didn't find the movie confusing and in fact it very quickly become one of my favorite films of all time. And yet there were numerous complaints from adults about how lost they were. At that point I had not read the book and had barely touched the game, but it didn't stop me from understanding the basic plot. So either I was some genius kid that understood the complex plot with ease, or most people are dumb-dumbs and shouldn't be watching it in the first place. I think the same can apply here.

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I preferred old-school FPS games like Doom and Duke Nukem 3D since they offered a lot of exploring and puzzles to solve which does play a part in the run and gun action. In my vote, the level designs of Doom to the Pwads created back between 1994 and 1995 were somewhat simple, though there were some complex maps at the time, though it was really Team TNT that were the primary key figures of the evolution of Doom mapping, since with their megawads Evilution and Icarus, presented elements and concepts that were never found in previous wads in the time. To put it bluntly, I felt that Ty and the rest of Team TNT were visionaries back in 1995 and 1996, pushing the engine past its limitations, improving the design aesthetics with more advanced architecture and innovations, as evident in Icarus and Eternal Doom. The megawads may seem primitive nowadays, but back then, the folks of Team TNT were ahead of their time. I even can't play Hell Revealed without noticing the influence of the Casali brothers' Plutonia. Heck even the gameplay of Plutonia foreshadows HR and other wads that follow its style like Alien Vendetta and Kama Sutra. All in all, I look back and think about how the Doom and Doom 2 maps now and then are still regarded as more enjoyable compared to today's FPS games.

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What? Modern shooters are supposed to have "map design"? And I who thought that "map design" today consisted of throwing some height-mapped terrain in an otherwise open space, some trees, some prefab bunkers and calling it a "map".

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Maes said:

What? Modern shooters are supposed to have "map design"? And I who thought that "map design" today consisted of throwing some height-mapped terrain in an otherwise open space, some trees, some prefab bunkers and calling it a "map".


Don't forget a cutscene every two minutes

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This review has been posted here before. I recall saying that it's what you'd expect from someone used to newer games. Can't find the thread it appeared on, though.

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That reviewer is part of this younger instant gratification group of gamers. They don't find it gratifying to play games. They find it gratifying to achieve (achievements anyone?) goals no matter how trivial or easy they are to achieve.

I recently played through Doom and Doom2 for the first time in over a decade and never found myself confused or lost and I loved every simple moment of it. It was all over too quickly and I was left with better memories and experiences than when I played in the 90's. I can not relate to this review but many more people do. He is the majority and represents the present and future of gaming. Too bad.

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Captain Red said:

Making secretes hard to find are fine. They are after all, secretes. But the goal of "get to the exit" should not be something that takes hours of banging ones head ageist a wall to achieve. The odd puzzle can make things interesting, but there has to be a logic to it. The developers need to sitting down and thinking "is this something someone a sane person will solve?" is the difference between the Monkey Island games and Kings Quest games. The two examples I posted before are more on the side of Kings Quest logic.


Yeah I think a sane person would solve it. I mean, the person has clearly completed 28 levels before it (or including Ultimate Doom, 55+) I think it's safe to assume the player had some experience locating secrets and appreciating their value. Even on a map as difficult as MAP29 you're probably dying for a soul sphere. Not to mention the secret isn't even very difficult to locate. It's in a small circular shaped room. If the area had to revealed somehow, there has to be something important about it. Voila, angry hopeless wall-humping has paid off!

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@40oz: More importantly than that, you actually get locked in to that area, so if it takes you more than 30 seconds to find it after you've killed the baron, you're probably not trying.

I also find it odd that Red is using MAP29 as contrast when it's one of the more linear maps that Doom 2 has to offer -- I'd have expected someone to cite MAP15/MAP13 or somesuch right off the bat.


Anyhow, this has probably come up before and I've probably already commented on it, so whatever. Blah blah, silly reviewer, blah whatever.

What we really need is for some evil genius game studio to come out with something that features nonlinear map design in a modern-style shooter and trick people into liking it. Problem solved. ;)

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Xaser said:

I also find it odd that Red is using MAP29 as contrast when it's one of the more linear maps that Doom 2 has to offer -- I'd have expected someone to cite MAP15/MAP13 or somesuch right off the bat.

I cited map 29 becasue it's been mentioned here before.

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The strange thing is, there's plenty of linearity in Doom 2's maps..but not as much as today's shooters ofc. I wonder if he's not even used to stuff like backtracking to locked/remote doors etc. and having optional areas to explore. (let alone full non-linearity such as map 21)

phobosdeimos1 said:

Don't forget a cutscene every two minutes


And cover spots approved by Sir Wally McChesthigh.

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I'm a newer gamer myself, and I think some of you are being too hard on modern games.

I've seen a couple complaints about how modern games have too many cutscenes. I don't think I've yet played a newer game where there was a cutscene where it shouldn't have been. It just seems to me that over the years shooting games have moved their focus from complete total fragfests to be more focused on plot.

For example: When I've played through DOOM II, I know it has a story and all, but I never really felt like I was fighting on earth and saving humanity. Halo, on the other hand, has a good plot and intricate backstory that makes it feel like your saving humanity from an alien onslaught. Reach, particularly, has some touching cutscenes.

And for all of you who say that modern games are overly linear and don't give you the sense of hard-earned success from finding all the secrets, talk to me when you've found every last datapad in Halo Reach.

There are still some good modern games.

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This chick sounds like a reject from EDGE magazine circa 1993. This review serves only to reinforce my opinion that modern gamers are a bolus of uncultured fucks who need everything spoon-fed to them or else it sucks.

Doom is an 18-year-old game, so it is antiquated by default. To mark it down on that basis is complete folly, and merely shows the reviewer up as being the shallow, skill-free retard that she is. Since when is needing to consult the map a bad thing?

How fortunate for the reviewer that there doesn't appear to be a "comments" box on that site ...

@Rafenator: Cutscenes in and of themselves aren't the issue. The issue is that increasingly more and more attention is being paid to those that the actual game itself. Halo is a particularly egregious offender - the cutscens are indeed lavishly produced, but the SP campaigns can be beaten within a day, leaving only the overrated multiplayer component as remuneration for platers who've just dropped £50 on the game.

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