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aldiboronti

What's with all the symmetrical monster placement?

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You see it in so many wads: 2 imps on this side of the corridor, ah bound to be 2 imps on the other side. 4 demons on this side of the room, well whaddya know, 4 demons on that side too. I find it detracts from the game, it takes away the element of surprise and in the end it just gets bloody annoying. Why is it so common? Is it simply that it's quicker to map this way?

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It's probably about balancing the maps difficulty. I promise you that this ain't a common convention whose purpose is to make mapping easier. There are 20 different enemies in doom, so I don't see how you could get suprised after blasting the same fucking monsters since 94. So... When I do like that, I do it because I think that it is the best choice for the maps balance.

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In my personal experience it's sort of intuitive to place monsters like that, I think it's related to trying to make the map geometry symmetrical. I think that most of the time it's not so much a purposeful design choice but just an automatic thing.

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It is a bit lazy to do the monster placement symmetrically most of the time, I'll admit... but it's a very hard habit to shake, particularly when the environments they're in are largely symmetrical.

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When a map is mostly symmetrical in architecture and gameplay, it's boring as shit. It's common because it's easy and lazy.

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I try to go as symmetrical as I can to spite the artsy trend of being against it. Also, revenants. Lots of 'em!

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Yeah, sometimes symmetrical monster placement alongside symmetrical architecture is okay if it's few and far between and if it's pulled off right... but some people use it to such a point where gameplay just becomes tedious and becomes a chore.

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Symmetrical placement makes kinda sense for some types of arenas or such situations. It's like the monsters are in formation, waiting for you to arrive to the battle.

In random rooms and corridors, it doesn't really make sense. It feels too choreographed.

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I think it's safe to say that a slaughter map with symmetrical monster placement is acceptable, if not expected. With so many projectiles to dodge and so much to hold back, it becomes and non-issue.

However, in many Doom levels like Plutonia Experiment for example, symmetrical monster placement is very lame. Especially when almost the entire layout of the map is symmetrical, it's like having to play the same map twice. (Ghost Town anyone?)

It wasn't until I started working on UAC Ultra with Super Jamie that I learned that I often made symmetrical layouts with symmetrical architecture and symmetrical monster placement. Super Jamie helped identify that for me and now I'm much better at avoiding that.

If people were thinking like I did, people will place monsters in rooms according to what kind of weapons and ammo the player has at that point. Their position however, is reflected by the architecture of the room like as if they are props or something. This often leads to monsters laid out in symmetrical attack patterns.

For any mappers who do lay out monsters symmetrically by force of habit, it's probably best you break it. Kepp in mind that the monsters standing in position at the time of them and the player seeing each other is the most brief amount of time ever and the monsters will respectively break out of their formation and free roam on their own. It's a much better monster placement tactic to place monsters so that when they see the player, will free roam to where you want them to go. Take very high consideration into where the player's position needs to be for the monster to have seen (or heard) him, and move accordingly. Do this by placing them at the ends of hallways or behind corners. The thing placement for Doom 1 and 2 IWADs is very helpful for this kind of stuff.

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dannebubinga said:

It's probably about balancing the maps difficulty. I promise you that this ain't a common convention whose purpose is to make mapping easier. There are 20 different enemies in doom, so I don't see how you could get suprised after blasting the same fucking monsters since 94. So... When I do like that, I do it because I think that it is the best choice for the maps balance.


That was a helluva bullshit answer. You talk about balancing the map like you're balancing a scale. If you want one side of a room to look the same as the other, sure it meets your definition of "balance". But if you're talking about difficulty, this makes no sense. If there's 4 imps on one side of the room and 4 on the other side and you have 5 shotgun shells, how is that balanced? 3 on one side and 2 on the other = balanced. This is oversimplifying the situation but it makes a helluva lot more sense than what you said.

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Face23785 said:

That was a helluva bullshit answer. You talk about balancing the map like you're balancing a scale. If you want one side of a room to look the same as the other, sure it meets your definition of "balance". But if you're talking about difficulty, this makes no sense. If there's 4 imps on one side of the room and 4 on the other side and you have 5 shotgun shells, how is that balanced? 3 on one side and 2 on the other = balanced. This is oversimplifying the situation but it makes a helluva lot more sense than what you said.


If you had 8 shots, it would be balanced. I just make sure you got 8 shells by placing 4 shells at each side of the room in a typical symmetrical fashion ;) But don't listen to me cause I'm such a bullshitter.

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Symmetrical level design works best if you're into socialist realist or art deco architecture, but even then monster placement has to be more flavoured. Choose your death: female toilet invaded by imps, or male toilet invaded by sergeants.

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dannebubinga said:

If you had 8 shots, it would be balanced. I just make sure you got 8 shells by placing 4 shells at each side of the room in a typical symmetrical fashion ;) But don't listen to me cause I'm such a bullshitter.


Yeah I did point out my example was oversimplified, but the point is a symmetrical level doesn't necessarily equal balanced gameplay. Like a few people have pointed out, its more due to it being quicker and easier and just the natural way alot of people think.

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Symmetrical layouts can actually add interest to a level when done right. Towards the end of Half Life, but before Xen, there's a level where you have to reach two coolant valves or something of the sort in two symmetrical rooms, but the rooms had different visuals (one was dark) and different gameplay (one was full of headcrabs). That's about all I can remember of the specifics, but I do remember being impressed by the level design. Symmetrical geometry is a way to make a level feel more real, I suppose. Human-made spaces are often symmetrical by design but contingently asymmetrical - the furniture, decor and detritus that we leave behind never forms a mirror image.

However, when you find yourself designing a forked hallway and putting the same monsters down both paths, think twice, because you are doing it wrong. Here's a rule of thumb: if, when I play your level for the first time, I ever know exactly what I'll see and what I'll have to fight before I open a door or turn a corner, because I've seen it once before, you've failed in your duty as a map designer. It takes audacity to be so lazy.

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Creaphis said:

However, when you find yourself designing a forked hallway and putting the same monsters down both paths, think twice, because you are doing it wrong. Here's a rule of thumb: if, when I play your level for the first time, I ever know exactly what I'll see and what I'll have to fight before I open a door or turn a corner, because I've seen it once before, you've failed in your duty as a map designer. It takes audacity to be so lazy.


Basically this. An exception is when you enter a room where the monster placement is symmetrical but you're visible to all, as they'll naturally all kind of scramble in an asymmetrical fashion. Otherwise you can ho-hum around a corner with the right weapon selected and ready to go. This was probably why a good deal of people didn't like some of the early maps in WOS. It certainly gets tedious to repeat the same action over and over again.

So why's it so popular when mapping? As stated, it's easy. It really is. The simplest way to expand something to is to repeat an action. The only side-effect is that players will start to hit their snooze-button and play on autopilot for the remainder of the map. As you attorney, I advise you to avoid this scenario when possible.

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Creaphis said:

if, when I play your level for the first time, I ever know exactly what I'll see and what I'll have to fight before I open a door or turn a corner, because I've seen it once before, you've failed in your duty as a map designer. It takes audacity to be so lazy.

Yeaah, then what about Wolfenstein 3-D Episode 5 Floor 4? That was one of the more entertaining levels and was quite symmetrical (with eight axes of symmetry!)

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tempun said:

That's not possible for Wolf3D

Not literally, but that map repeats even the Nazis with craze. Granted, it wasn't by far the hardest map and was more fun to blaze thru than challenging, especially thanks to the lamentation-inducing music.

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Here's a rule of thumb: if, when I play your level for the first time, I ever know exactly what I'll see and what I'll have to fight before I open a door or turn a corner, because I've seen it once before, you've failed in your duty as a map designer.


Two of my favorite mappers are Eternal and TimeOfDeath, even though I've played so many maps by them I more often than not know what they are going to throw at me by looking at the layout (Eternal is especially fond of throwing one little guy on each side after door openings).

Discovery is only good for the first playthrough, perhaps the second or third one to know the map fully, but a map with fun gameplay can be replayed ten, twenty, a hundred times. Once you've got all the information, the element of surprise is gone.

In an ideal world we'd get maps with unexpected things *and* great gameplay, but that's the thing ; we're not in a perfect world. We don't have an infinite amount of time. All too often, people focus on a feature as if it intrinsically makes something better, forgetting that it's the way you use it that matters.

Ironically, while it is decried as a shortcut, in many cases symmetry serves as yet another scapegoat to avoid taking the time to actually think. Does my map has sufficient detail? Is it asymmetric? Are the textures aligned? Is the layout interconnected? Is there different paths to reach the exit? Is there mathematically enough ammo to kill all the monsters? Then it's automatically great.

Things can work like that, because Doom gets the ammo balance and monster cast so right even not giving a thought to gameplay itself can end up in a decent map (it's also likely many mappers develop an instinctive sense of balance over the years, even if they feel they're just plopping down monsters randomly), but there can be so much more to it. Given the choice, I'll take a map with great gameplay and none of the above must-have features than something that plays merely decent and has it all. To be fair, I'll actually play both, but there's only one of which I'm likely to replay and keep in my Doom folder.

There's nothing wrong with designing maps with the first playthrough in mind, as that's something everyone will experience, but to establish that as one of the primary goals every mapper should have just doesn't resonate well with me.

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What about 2002ado? That pack was absoulutely plagued with symettrical level design and it was highly praised.

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There's very few megawads made by a single person that go without praise.

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it was praised despite being symmetrical and made by a team of authors.

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40oz said:

There's very few megawads made by a single person that go without praise.


Hey, I'm making one of those! :D

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Khorus said:

When a map is mostly symmetrical in architecture and gameplay, it's boring as shit. It's common because it's easy and lazy.


QFT, though I am sure I have made myself guilty of the same practice at times.

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40oz said:

There's very few megawads made by a single person that go without praise.

2002ado was done by more than one guy. And I'll admit, the better maps are those that were NOT made by pcorf. He became better with WOS anyway.

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