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Acid

A discussion on mapping difficulty

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This question has, say, not really boggled me that much, but rather played a role in helping me determine the difficulty of a map.

>>Should the mapper be able to complete his/her own map in order to judge the difficulty?<<

The reason I'm brining this topic up is because, obviously, not all mappers are as good as each other, just like how some maps are ridiculously hard while some are easy as playing blindfolded. Should a wad be ultimately easier if the mapper themself can't complete half the levels?

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Well depends on the skill of the mapper.
If I do an easy map I do a map that I'm able to complete without losing 1% Life (Classic E1 maps you know :D).
If I want to do something difficult I do the maps that they are even challenging for myself.
I know a guy who is doing maps that he isnt able to complete himself, but I can do them. (Hes a N00b^^)
The best way is to send a message to a person of the forum you like and invite this person to palytest your map to get feedback on the difficulty etc.)

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I guess the only practical answer is to invite people to playtest your map. Not only do players vary in skill, but you can gain other perspectives in that things that were obvious to you while mapping may not be obvious for others.

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It's an interesting question. I don't consider myself a particularly skilled player, as I find many custom classic WADs really hard. But a lot of the feedback I get about my work is that the difficulty is very high, even though I can generally burn through 'em without too much trouble. Knowing where everything is and always what's coming next makes it quite tough to judge your own stuff.

So It's nice to be able to watch first attempt demos of your work. As much as I like ZDoom, the sketchy demo recording capability is a deterrent these days from keeping me mapping with it.

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Playtesting and first-attempt demo recordings are hugely important, for sure.

My own ability to complete the map (without saves) isn't always the best judge of difficulty; I'm far from a great player, but the balance is often tipped a lot by the knowledge of my own maps gained from building them and from having played them repeatedly and figured out the 'solutions' to a lot of fights already. Though other times I'll think something is reasonably difficult only to be told how hilariously easy it is. :P

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If you want a good and difficult map that you can't finish yourself, add Belial to the testers. Sometime in the future we'll have to clone his mind in a software to help everyone.

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BloodyAcid said:

>>Should the mapper be able to complete his/her own map in order to judge the difficulty?<<

Assuming that you don't have anyone else better than you to playtest the map, yes. Because how else can you be sure that the item and monster placement is fair?

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I think so, yes.

I also play my maps in lots of different ways to emulate different playing styles and skill levels. For example, getting hit more often than I'd allow myself to, or missing more shots, or playing entirely with the arrows-spacebar-ctrl keys. Stuff like that.

Of course, you can never beat input from other people who play your maps. That's a given :)

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I make my maps for me, so they tend to be built around my own difficulty preferences. The first among these is that maps should be beatable by me :P

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I don't think you have to be able to beat your own map to evaluate difficulty, much like you don't need to be a professional athlete to have an educated opinion on highend sport strategies.

There is no substitute for knowledge, that much is for sure, and for ill-defined concepts twitch skill and repetition can make learning easier than theorycraft, but given some familiarity with the game, it's not unreasonable to work with certain assumptions, provided you don't go overboard.

In practice, if you can't beat your map with extensive saving you're probably aiming too high. Unless you're already balancing your maps to be played with saves in which case uuuhh I don't know.

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What I've found with my experience in game design, is that a level is usually much harder than you think it is ... By a very wide margin. So if you can't complete your own map, that's a problem.

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For stand-alone levels, I've always worked on the basis that I should be able to finish the level:

* from a pistol start;
* on HMP;
* with saves allowed; and
* with 0% secrets

So I design with HMP in mind, then tweak Things to set up the other difficulty settings.

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