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Eregore

Describe your level developing process

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Everyone has their own level developing process, whither it be drawing out designs on paper, making one room after another, planning out the room themes first and connecting them later, or some bizarre process no one would have ever guessed. Describe your process!

I'll go first:

First I pick a general theme, you know: tech-base, industrial, castle, hell, catacombs, etc.

Then, I draw a 3x3 grid, similar to tic-tac-toe. Then I place (semi-randomly) the letters A through E within the grid. Once I've done this 5 of the 9 squares in the grid have letters in them. Each letter represents a 'zone', or 1/5th of the map.

A represents the starting zone. B the zone which contains the first key, C: 2nd key, D: 3rd key, and finally E: exit zone. I usually try to give each zone a slightly different feel, while keeping the theme of the map generally similar. I also try to give each zone a new weapon to pace-the game play and a major 'trick or trap' to keep things exiting.

Now this may sound incredibly linear but I often make each zone accessible from several other surrounding zones; I just don't make the keys in zones C or D accessible (without the previous key). This allows for a non-linear first play-through. I think of this as my 'road map' for the level.

After I have my theme and my 'road map' I rough in the zones with a few big sectors. With the big picture planning complete the levels tend to build themselves.

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Never mapped for Doom, may one day try it as its about the only game I return too.....and will always play!

I have worked on many UT2004 maps, usually I flesh out the level with basic BSP and check the game flows ok and is fun to play, then add the detail, static meshes and textures etc

However, fleshing out a level in Doom kind of is the level, you cant add more detail. Guess you can go back and add better textures and enhance it etc

Either way I am guessing getting the gameplay fun first is the priority.

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Draw a bunch of sectors and attempt to make sense of them. Texture as you go, figure out a smooth progression, add monsters, then polish based on advice from others.

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Back when I did Murderous Intent I used to make a nice-looking area, then 'spider' around it with various pathways and later make some of the doors into key-doors and work from there.

Looking back (and at the reviews, the negative ones are all fair, by the way), I didn't really have a great appreciation for space; I guess my approach wasn't so great.

I remember how I pitched the difficulty though; I'd play HMP as if it were Ultra-Violence, and then when I was comfortable with that I would think to myself "what beasties would I not want to see, and where?" and then that would inform UV's monster placement -- which is why the difficulty graphics are changed, and UV is ostensibly named 'Murderous Intent'.

Mind, I did manage to best EVERY level with a pistol-start; even if 'Somewhat Damaged' was a clusterfuck and a half -- I needed to get as much infighting happening as was humanly possible and spam as much rocket splash-damage as I could. But it was nonetheless possible, so I left it as-is.

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Thanks for the link Phobus. As I am newer here I missed that thread. Seems like pretty much the same idea. Great approaches!

I also have another approach that I'm a little weary of, because I sense using it *might* get me ban from community projects that call for levels made 'new from scratch'. Its a variation on the patchwork theme. Because often my schedule wont allow for large 3 hour chunks of time to be spent level building, I have a .wad that is just a sketch pad of rooms. dozens and dozens of rooms. none of them are connected or textured. its essentially a pile of room ideas. then, when i go to make a level layout, i often copy and paste rooms from this 'sketchpad wad' into my actual levels, in the place of 'zones'. its all still original work, it just wasn't made AFTER the level was initiated, therefor not 'new from scratch'.

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I launch Doom Builder, create a new map and immediately save it. After that I start to think what will the map be about. I make first sector and then I slowly make a map, sector by sector, adding details and monsters and testing it as I go along. It takes me a few days or few weeks. During that process, I often come back to areas that I finished a longer time ago and improve them. When I finally think the map is finished - that's always in the evening - I go to sleep. Next hour I am lying in bed and ideas in my mind are like this: "That room needs more detail. That bars look odd in that place. The lighting effect there is awful." Next day I open the map again, change all that details and test the whole level again. And next night, I find out more things to improve and that's how I spend few more days. This is my typical level developing process :)

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Eregore said:

I also have another approach that I'm a little weary of, because I sense using it *might* get me ban from community projects that call for levels made 'new from scratch'. Its a variation on the patchwork theme. Because often my schedule wont allow for large 3 hour chunks of time to be spent level building, I have a .wad that is just a sketch pad of rooms. dozens and dozens of rooms. none of them are connected or textured. its essentially a pile of room ideas. then, when i go to make a level layout, i often copy and paste rooms from this 'sketchpad wad' into my actual levels, in the place of 'zones'. its all still original work, it just wasn't made AFTER the level was initiated, therefor not 'new from scratch'.

I'd not worry about that to be honest - my second CC4 map has a huge chunk that is from an incomplete map and there's no complaints there. Only time I can see it being an issue is in speed mapping events and competitions, but even then you'll have to update and alter your sketches to fit in with the map you're making :)

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I usually picture an area in my head. I might try designing it right away, but I usually don't. Once I come up with a decent number of interesting areas, I start thinking of ways I could tie them together into a single map. After that, I just start designing and inspiration for other rooms and secrets will come as I go.

One thing I don't do very often is draw my layouts on paper. I've always been told it's the most important part of designing a level, but I've simply never felt the need to do it. I do "sketch out" nearly the entire layout in my head before I touch an editor, though. No maps that I've sketched out on paper beforehand have come out any better than the ones I haven't.

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Dragonsbrethren said:

I usually picture an area in my head. I might try designing it right away, but I usually don't. Once I come up with a decent number of interesting areas, I start thinking of ways I could tie them together into a single map. After that, I just start designing and inspiration for other rooms and secrets will come as I go.


Same. I can't draw it out on paper. I just think of stuff and start building it and start connecting it and adding secrets as I go.

For my map, I had no plans; just random ideas. The beginning was tough, but once you force yourself to start drawing some lines, doors, rooms, you'll find yourself creating something cool and styling it and building further on it with ease.

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The only process I subscribe to is not having a process. I think I do things differently every time.

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I usually design maps either depending on the feel that i want to receive from the game (fast run'n'gun, hordes of low-tier monsters, key searchin' and backtracking, horror etc) or around some "gameplay theme" (lots of doors, specific shapes of rooms/corridors, horizontality/verticality, stairs, atriums etc). In the first case, map layot and design will be influenced by used monsters, in the second - by used elements, like stairs, so i don't have serious problems with "what to put in" or "what to build".

Never did sketches on the paper since Q3 mapping, because Doom Builder's 2D mode is like the paper, and you have quick access to 3D mode.

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I'm actually very new to the level building process (and to these forums) but i'm about 2 maps into my wad. The first thing i did, was grab a white board and map out the entire journey, from level 1-30. I felt like i could build the maps better if i had the overall road and names for each place before the maps were made.

but when its come to the map itself i kind of start with the entrance and build room by room from there. and if i feel it starts to have too straight forward of a path, i put in 2 or 3 rooms and make myself find a way to connect them.

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Like any creative process it's hard to keep a singular linear process without losing inspiration but in an ideal world I like to have the concept in mind from the start. By concept this is ideally a mixture of gameplay, mapflow and theme. So I might think this next map will throw mid-tier monsters at you from early on and ill equip you for them so you have to scatter looking for provisions. To accomodate this the map will have a non-linear early progression with plenty of room to dodge in. Thematically it will be gloomy gothic metal and wooden and have an imposing aura of mercilessness

This I let stew in my head and hopefully some architectural landmarks or battle setpieces will form. I'd jot these down on paper seperatley at first and ponder how the shapes of the areas could fit together. I'd then fill in the games with additional areas and have on paper a very rough broad-strokes version of my map.

In Doombuilder I'd then recreate it and test. I usually place monsters early on to get a feel of how nice the areas are to fight in before detailing. In playtesting I'll think about where blind spots etc are and get more serious with thing placement.

When I'm happy I'll start making it look nicer with details and lighting.

The better the early part goes the faster and more succesful the make seems to come together.

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I think it mainly depends on what size of level your going for, large maps it's best to make the outline of your map first then use a carve out approach to separate the different parts of the map out. Small maps it's usually best to build a few rooms then interconnect them since the scope of the map is small there is not really any need to define an outline to work from. Medium maps use a blend between small and large, by outlining your larger areas and using the small map approach to connect them. Another good practice is to map your areas in a skeletal type fashion leaving out the fine details this will allow for fast texturing instead of trying to texture every little detail as you go or trying to texture after you've detailed. However when doing fine details for instance a hole in a wall with a bunch of fragments on the floor do these sections one by one by mapping the effect then setting/heights texturing it can save a lot of time. Save the items / monsters / choreography for last these are distractions from actually getting something mapped out. The functionality of a map is dependent on the state of a map in architectural development, architectural development does not require functionality of the map it's self. This is why I typically don't stray to far from doors, slopes, and lifts all the other stuff can be added at last and I will save time because i'll be doing the same process over and over this is the true art of mapping being able to do all the most related tasks sequentially to avoid wasting time. For instance if your not concentrating on texturing and only drawing sectors and setting ceiling floor heights a good pace is about 1000 sidedefs an hour. When you start sidetracking pace will go down a lot and in the long run you'll end up spending more time. So from my observation and experience if your development process is good I would put the mark at
100 sectors, 1000 sidedefs, textured, lighting, thing placement in about 4 hours this is also with minimal repeat architecture. If your mapping and you can't do that much then there is something wrong with your mapping process, but it's better to learn a hundred ways something won't work at least that way your going to find new techniques that can work for something else. This is the most important part of the process perfecting your mapping techniques that achieve what you want to map quickly.

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Memfis said:

1. think of the first area
2. make it
3. ???????
4. get depressed


pretty much.

Then you think of the next area at like 4:00 a.m while you are in bed and forget it by morning.

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It really depends on what kind of mood I'm in - if I already have a theme in mind and a layout in my head, I start off with "chunking" the rooms together - making the layout in bulk without adding detail, then I'll start with whatever room I decide is the "main" room and detail it, then I simply take that theme and extrapolate it into the other rooms, and once I have a fully themed map, I add smaller detail on a room-by-room and need-by-need basis. This way since I make the bulk of the map in simple sectors, if I decide to move or change something, I'm not shooting myself in the foot by undoing a ton of detailing.

Other times though, I like to just make one room, detail the hell out of it (or depending on the map theme, into it), and then work from there room by room.

And just recently, I made a "Modular Mapping" wad that has a bunch of premade pieces at various heights that are pretextured (blandly) so that I can whip together quick map layouts and then save the details for last. I have a video of it on my YouTube channel, as well as a bunch of other Doom Builder stuff.

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1. Start daydreaming during working hours.
2. Scribble down ideas/rough layouts.
3. Get fired.
4. Go home and map.
5. Live on canned food and tap water for the rest of my life.

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