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40oz

Details and Interpretations

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A common obstacle I've been running into in my mapping lately is making my maps look good without unnecessary detailing.

A lot of my favorite maps are ones that have a lot of different areas to explore. Ones that have a lot of atmosphere and allow the player to make a hypothesis of what the purpose the area has that the player is engaging in.

A problem I notice with a lot of heavily detailed maps is a lot of the detail doesn't make any sense. There's all sorts of TEKWALLs and COMPSTAs sealed in with supports and wall trims and what not. There's computer monitors and pipes jutting out of walls every which way. I know it's a "tech" base and that it doesn't really need a reason to have these things there, but the entire building doesn't appear to serve a definite purpose for it's existence. The interesting and unique textures seem to make an appearance among all the detail in what appear to be basic hallways and lobbies. All the detail looks like filler that would otherwise have just been plain boring rooms.

I want my maps to be interesting to explore. Computer labs, surveillance rooms, engineering cores, and outdoor apparatuses are the types of areas that my player would want to find. The part about these things that makes them interesting is that if you see TEKWALLs or PIPES or computer monitors only in specific rooms, instead of dispersed among the entire map, it make cause the player to ask some questions. "Why was this room so tucked away?" "What kind of experiments were conducted here?" "What is this machine supposed to be the power source to?" "What kind of information is on these computers?" Many detailed maps consistently spread all the interesting and special textures in all sorts of places, which dillutes the experience of finding them and interpretting their function in the area you found them in. These areas are characterized by the types of textures that appear in them.

My conflict is that I don't want to bore my player to death if he doesn't find all the special rooms. There's only so much you can do with wall trims and support textures. So far, ambient lighting and giving rooms and hallways strange shapes using unusual angles has been doing pretty well at making some areas feel detailed without actually looking detailed.

Other minor things I'm doing are using warning stripes specifically near hazards such as low ceilings, exposed circuitry, and falling hazards. I'm also being careful where I place my map decorations. For example, a dead player in plain sight might say a lot about what the player could expect from the contents of an unexplored room.

What are some subtle ways to indicate that a room in a map is "different" from what you might see in the rest of the map? Also what are some ways to make normal purposeless rooms and hallways look good without using the aforementioned any unique characteristics?

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When I was making my Zoow mod years ago, I did a bunch of machines into the levels. I guess they had different purposes, but they mostly used the same textures and looked like some big power generator things. I think some of them also had some holes that had steam coming out.

I think in some way I did the details similar to Doom3. There were some little storage rooms, some vending machines, etc, occassionally some small maintenance type of area.

Well, make details that have a purpose. Details for the sake of details are just crap. Then it's also cool if you can interact with the details, so then they definitely have a purpose.

Also if you use colored lighting, then you can create some details with them.

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Rooms shouldn't be "purposeless". They should all have something to lend to the gameplay and that should be the primary driving force behind designing a room. At least that's how I see it.

Fact is that a lot of Doom players are more than happy to see a few panels in every corridor if it means the wall isn't a uniform type of dull. I find even using more interesting textures (STARTAN and other patterned "wall papers") work well enough in making things more exciting. Have windows in corridors so you can see outside (and be attacked or view your next objective) - couple of decorative locked doorways - things like signage directing people to rooms... you know, stuff you'd expect to fidn in a corridor.

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This thread asks questions which don't have clear-cut answers. Who says rooms have to have purpose? Define "unnecessary" details? In the end, it all seems totally subjective to me. You develop a style that's yours and that you are comfortable with, and you just run with it.

Sometimes the "purpose" of a room in a map I make is to allow the player to loop back to a place he came from, but from a different/unexpected direction. If the room doesn't have a clear reason for being in the base/city/hellish temple, fuck it. Throw some details in it and chalk it up as a futuristic/arcane mystery that Doomguy will never figure out.

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Doom maps are often pretty abstract. From the earliest Id levels to whatever the latest and greatest WAD is. I like to think that the visual level design of Doom maps is abstract because of the limitation imposed by the engine, as well as the point of view maps are often edited in (3D modes don't really count, all you do in there is replace textures or move floors and ceilings about).

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I've never been an artistic person. I can do just about anything when creating a Doom map, and I have no problem creating maps at all. My problem is the detail. I don't know if I'm just setting my own expectations too high, but I get uber-jealous when I look at WADs like Plutonia 2 and Alien Vendetta, which have a tremendous amount of detail. From a detail perspective, I wish my maps could be of that quality/standard, but the artistic ability just isn't in me.

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If you're going to complain about modern games being too realistic, you should at least remain consistent and not complain about Doom not being realistic enough.

I mean seriously make up your damn mind 40oz

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I like Wolf3D's rudimentary attempts at scene-setting, like the E1M1 kennel area.

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Fisk said:

If you're going to complain about modern games being too realistic, you should at least remain consistent and not complain about Doom not being realistic enough.

I mean seriously make up your damn mind 40oz


What?

Vordakk said:

This thread asks questions which don't have clear-cut answers.


Yeah upon further examination of my own thread, I really think the only person capable of answering these questions are myself.

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But I didn't complain about anything besides maps that have too much detail.

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40oz said:

So far, ambient lighting and giving rooms and hallways strange shapes using unusual angles has been doing pretty well at making some areas feel detailed without actually looking detailed.

Yeah, this is definitely what I like to do. Sometimes I'm tempted to think that I wouldn't want to make odd sector shapes because all the textures wouldn't align correctly and it would be tedious to try and make it work. But most of the time I disregard any though on texture alignment based on how oddly a sector is shaped out to be and just go for whatever interesting idea I might have at the time. The fun part of the challenge then is trying to make it work. An example of this would be the birthday map I made for Purist:

A sort of randomly scribbled sector:



In game:



Interesting map structures interest me more than anything else. Sometimes when I come up with odd structures the ideas kind of come naturally from that point on. Like, "I can imagine a ledge going here" or "I can imagine a bridge going here" etc.

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40oz said:

But I didn't complain about anything besides maps that have too much detail.

You seemed to be complaining that maps didn't use detail realistically enough.

The literal meaning of the textures only really play a small part in defining an area to the player, though. I mean, compare the computer area of e1m2 to the computer area of e2m7. You could put them into the same map and still be able to easily tell them apart, and even imagine your own story to go along with them and decide what they could mean. The scale is totally different, the colors and shapes are different, the lighting is different...

The colors, shapes, and lighting are really what make areas distinct. When I'm building a Doom map, I think of the visuals like I would a sci-fi movie set. It's abstract and has only a vaguely-defined literal meaning; its main purpose is to combine colors and shapes (not only the shape of the room itself, but also the lines and shapes created by arrangement of the architecture, lighting, and detail when viewed ingame) in an appealing way.

(For bonus points, find more than a few rooms in e1m2 that aren't a "computer area".)

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Vordakk said:

Define "unnecessary" details?


Basically details in which textures are used completely for decorative purposes instead of being used as a wall that you might see in the type of building you're trying to create.

I'd post some screenshots of other people's maps as examples but I know a lot of my early maps are just as guilty of doing the things I'm trying to avoid, so I'll post of screenshots of them

http://img829.imageshack.us/img829/8174/doom0006.png
There's a tiny room connecting a hallway and a door together. There's some tekwall which doesn't appear to be attached to or powering anything (especially because the next room is a box storage room) with a chainsaw on the ledge for whatever reason. And while the camouflage is a cool color theme, it's indoors, in a building with no foliage in it, which makes it kinda nonsensical in a way too.
http://img502.imageshack.us/img502/3263/doom0007.png
There's computer monitors on the walls of a hallway, and UAC logos engraved on the walls of the hole in the ceiling. They make a boring hallway look cool but as a functioning UAC Facility, it's just stupid. Why would you go to a hallway to monitor anything? Wouldn't a company want it's logos at eye level where people could see them?
http://img196.imageshack.us/img196/6157/doom0005.png
There are computer panels (with very tiny monitors on them) up high on platforms, and long the edge of the catwalk. It certainly looks cool but as a functioning work place, I'd hate to be the guy who has to read whatever it says on those monitors.

There are a lot of other maps I've played that add signs and machines and computer screens to their tech base maps in rather random areas, and pentagrams, candles, crosses, tortured victims, and marblefaces to anywhere in a hell map completely for decorative purposes, as opposed to creating a type of setting for a room, giving the map a sense of place. Purposeless decorations do nothing to make the player interested in knowing what the machines or computers are for. This is fair game for oh say, a slaughter map or deathmatch map, where the primary purpose of the map is for killing instead of learning about the place, but from a single player aspect, my maps are intended for fun killing + fun exploring, which lends to the goal I'm trying to achieve.

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So... okay, your complaint is indeed that the detailing in Doom maps isn't realistic enough. I'm glad we were able to get that established clearly.

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No it's not a complaint at all.

I'm just bringing up a topic for discussion about the little things that can make or break someone's entire interpretation of what a map is supposed to be.

Here's a screenshot of a little demo map I made showing how differently a few details change the look of the map. Doesn't the techno lamps make the map look like an underground mining project? And doesn't the torches make it look like MAP29: The Living End?

http://img802.imageshack.us/img802/2820/doom49.png

http://img840.imageshack.us/img840/340/doom50.png

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Obviously changing tech stuff to torches and gothic pillars will change the appearance and interpretation of a scene pretty significantly, but that's completely unrelated to the heights of ceiling computers and almost everything else you've posted in this thread.

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I get what you're saying. "Functional" detail, semi-realistic detail, etc. Again, I'd say it comes down to how much you personally care about it. I sometimes think about this stuff on a much simpler level than you do, so that I don't place monitors and comp panels up near ceilings where no one would get to them. But I am guilty of using "hallway monitors" and other detailing which is arguably not functional, at least in our minds. In the end, you've got to decide how much time you want to spend mulling over stuff like this and how much you want to spend coming up with original architecture and gameplay ideas.

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I see what 40oz is getting at. It's not unreasonable when you accept he's looking at it from an idealistic point of view rather than a necessity.

If you can arrange decor and texture themes in such a way that implies a logic, evokes a sense of place and/or tells a story without detriment to gameplay or mapflow - all the better.

If you want to place computer panels over nukage for no other reason than it makes your map look good and it still plays well I don't think it warrants any complaints.

A map only needs to suggest a sense of place for me, not describe it. To use fiction as a metaphor, a map is more a of poem than a novel. Let me interpret and fill in the details myself.

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purist said:

To use fiction as a metaphor, a map is more a of poem than a novel. Let me interpret and fill in the details myself.


Well said, I completely agree with that.

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