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How to make a WAD hard?

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Can anyone tell me how to improve on bumping the difficulty in a custom WAD? In my maps (Space Communications, Hell's Hole,Town1) people complain that they are too easy and I agree looking back. Can someone please give me any pointers on how to make a map harder (Like Hell Revealed) but not over the top extreme (Sunder)?

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Well, one thing to consider adjusting is item placement. If you want to make a WAD challenging, you want to limit ammo and health so there is just barely enough to get by, leaving little room for sloppy tactics. You can also try placing difficult (but reasonable) traps within your levels to surprise players. Maybe have a few Arch-Viles poking around in secret. The element of surprise is, I think, very important in making a map difficult. Predictable game play can make things easier than they should be.

I think it takes practice to make a good challenging level, and I suggest asking people to test your maps so they can give feedback. You don't want to make your levels TOO difficult, which takes out all the fun. You'll have to try out different things until you find a happy medium.

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Scale up all monster difficulty by 1. (Zombieman -> Seargant -> Imp -> Demon - > Chaingunner -> Rev -> Hellknight -> Baron -> Manc/Arach -> Arch)

That's just one retarded way to do it :)

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Here are some suggestions on how to make a WAD hard:

  • Put in traps that teleport many monsters into one room.
  • Make a arena with two Cyberdemons so that it will be a tough boss battle.
  • Make the ammo and health limited so that the player will have to use their ammo and the medikits & stimpacks carefully.
  • Make the level hard to figure out by making the key's hard to find and having to activate switches that you have to figure out what they activate.
That's all I got and I hope you'll find my advice helpful.

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Monster placement is the key for a reasonably difficult, but be careful to place them in a too unfair situation or fatal traps.

Disadvantageous situations is a good way to create challenge, but if used too often can be fustrating (although, for me, is still much better than unlimited hordes). I like to make those situations more sparses and concetrated, creating a good pace and balance. (IMO)

For the traps, you must think in something REALLY surprising but that the player can survive in the FIRST attempt. If the player dies, it must be only by his fault. Traps that you survive more for luck than difficult are a really bad way to create challenge.
Of course, avoid making stuff that need previous knowledge too, except if its explicit to the player.

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You can exploit the monsters various attack styles increase the difficulty of a map. You can place enemies in hard to reach places so they can snipe you. Chaingunners and revenants work well for this, also arachnotrons. Don't make the fighting to predictable and make attackers come from more than one direction. For example from front and behind or ground level and high up.
Skepland is a good example of how to make a map really hard without throwing hordes of monsters at you.

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I tried your maps (couldn't find Hell's Hole tho), and i liked them, especially Town1. It is true that these maps could've benefit from some additional monsters, but they are not bad for a newbie, even tho maybe you should practice more without publishing at first.

Be very, very careful with lack of ammo, this is really not the best way to ramp up difficulty, because you can really Foxtrot Uniform your map (no ammo-no shooting-no fun). cannonball is right about placing monsters not just in front of the player. For example, in the room with the blue key (town), you could've place couple of monsters on top of those boxes, that would diverse player's movement. The room is too big too, don't make too long and/or too wide corridors, it's hard to concentrate action, and too much running can be boring.

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Harmata said:

I tried your maps (couldn't find Hell's Hole tho), and i liked them, especially Town1. It is true that these maps could've benefit from some additional monsters, but they are not bad for a newbie, even tho maybe you should practice more without publishing at first.

Be very, very careful with lack of ammo, this is really not the best way to ramp up difficulty, because you can really Foxtrot Uniform your map (no ammo-no shooting-no fun). cannonball is right about placing monsters not just in front of the player. For example, in the room with the blue key (town), you could've place couple of monsters on top of those boxes, that would diverse player's movement. The room is too big too, don't make too long and/or too wide corridors, it's hard to concentrate action, and too much running can be boring.


Thanks for th help, also, just search "TheBraggle" in the search bar, but make sure you tell it search by author :)

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Making a difficult level or section is a tricky concoction. The components of it are room size, obstacles, number of enemies, enemy type, enemy placement, health items, ammo, weapons given and enemy reveal. How you mix these different aspects is what makes your level and fantastic and refreshing experience, or an all around dud. Here are a few tips that I think should help.

- A good question to keep asking yourself as you put enemies in is what are you trying to do? It's good to have enemies for the player to constantly fight, but if you place imps and demons randomly around everywhere, it's going to be a very simple map to clean up. You shouldn't feel like you have to "fill in your map with enemies", it should be more like "how can I use this layout to my advantage to make it challenge the player?"

- Stick monsters on ledges when you can. If a player only has to worry about what's on the floor, they can strafe to a corner and easily control the crowd. Putting barons, revenants, or even chaingunners (if you're cruel) on ledges and pillars will force the players to prioritize them while giving the monster crowd some more room to move around and surround them.

- Try to discourage the player from backtracking out of an arena or area. Using lifts, teleports, or traps near the entrance of a room will make the player fight in your intended area, rather than just letting them back out of the room and wait around the corner.

- Don't throw around health and armor. Use it to aid the player, but don't let them walk into a room and see 8 medikits surrounding a blue armor before a big fight. Spreading health throughout the level will force them to search a bit more and will make the fights a bit more dynamic. Same with ammo.

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Don't give the player alot of ammo especially for the bfg while there are cyberdemon around.
Plenty of ammo makes it easier for beginners since they can spend 4-5 bfg shots on a cyberdemon while pros will kill it in 2 bfg shots.

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darkreaver said:

Fill the map with viles and remove all health and ammo. And weapons.


I wasn't wondering if, but when someone will say that.

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darkreaver said:

Fill the map with viles and remove all health and ammo. And weapons.


And make random floor flats do damage.



On a serious note, in my experience, if you are going to limit health and ammo, then do not limit both together. If you limit health, then give the player good ammo levels, so he can conserve his health. And if you limit ammo, then give the player extra health, as he will take more damage either having to melee monsters, or using weapons not suited to the particular monster situation (ie if the player has run out of all ammo except rockets in a relative tight area. Or if the player only has plasma, as plasma is much harder to snipe from cover with than either shells or bullets.)

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BloodyAcid said:

Scale up all monster difficulty by 1. (Zombieman -> Seargant -> Imp -> Demon - > Chaingunner -> Rev -> Hellknight -> Baron -> Manc/Arach -> Arch)

That's just one retarded way to do it :)


Not necessarily.

In many instances, a Sergeant is deadlier than an Imp and even a Demon. There are cases where a bunch of them are deadlier than a poorly placed Mancubus

Same goes with Barons and Mancubi and Arachnotrons. A small corridor with a Baron about to ambush you will prove much deadlier than one with a less pain resistant Fatso. Especially with a Plasma Gun the player has (barons are extremely pain resistant).

And what about Cacodemons/Pain Elementals/Lost Souls? Pain Elementals can be a major threat, especially when your only weapon is a rocket launcher.

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I love Sergeants. They are a great, lower-tier enemy, that forces the player to think tactically.

Deaf Sergeant in the corner. I pass this wisdom on to you free of charge.

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schwerpunk said:

I love Sergeants. They are a great, lower-tier enemy, that forces the player to think tactically.

Deaf Sergeant in the corner. I pass this wisdom on to you free of charge.


Another recommendation is ambushes by lower-tier monster. Being ambushed by sergeants is usually much deadlier to a player than fighting even a Cyberdemon out in the open. Make sure it's survivable though. Ex:
W E W
S S S
S P S - where S is Sergeant, P is player, E is escape, W is wall
S S S

This is survivable, but requires health, a weapon stronger than a pistol (not a bfg or rcket launcher), and a bit of luck. This is a deadly and good use of sergeants, provided it is executed correctly.

This next scenario is almost guaranteed to not be survivable without an invuln sphere:
W E W
B B B
B P B - same as above, but B is barons.
B B B

Edit: Revenants and Chaingunners are overused, Dopey. I think something new would be better. For instance, an Icon of Sin when the player least expects it, or a custom monster.

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Pure Hellspawn said:

Another recommendation is ambushes by lower-tier monster. Being ambushed by sergeants is usually much deadlier to a player than fighting even a Cyberdemon out in the open. Make sure it's survivable though. Ex:
W E W
S S S
S P S - where S is Sergeant, P is player, E is escape, W is wall
S S S

This is survivable, but requires health, a weapon stronger than a pistol (not a bfg or rcket launcher), and a bit of luck. This is a deadly and good use of sergeants, provided it is executed correctly.


As you say, you really need a weapon better than a pistol to survive this with much health. :)

YES I'M TALKING ABOUT YOU MEMENTO MORI (right at the start). Come to think of it, Memento Mori II is not much better right at the start. Sergeant ambush to start both these wads.

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You gotta first know monsters strengths then add them to areas that will bring that out. Make sure there are some cramped areas and traps.

You dont have to add a lot of high tier monsters to make things hard.

Limit the amount of medkits and replace some medkits with stimpacks.

Place some imps or zombie men around corners that you cant see until you actually enter a room.

Dont make rooms where you can lure monsters out of into a choke point to kill them.

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One thing I've noticed in some maps is letting a bunch of demons loose behind a player so they can't run away (pinkies are hard to run around) and then attacking the player from the front with your typical heavyweights.

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Maps that are "hard" because of sergeants are pretty much luck based unless you can see them from a distance before confronting them.
Either they hit you or they don`t, there is nothing you can do about it. I`m talking about ambushes in particular here.

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Pure Hellspawn said:

Not necessarily.

In many instances, a Sergeant is deadlier than an Imp and even a Demon. There are cases where a bunch of them are deadlier than a poorly placed Mancubus

Same goes with Barons and Mancubi and Arachnotrons. A small corridor with a Baron about to ambush you will prove much deadlier than one with a less pain resistant Fatso. Especially with a Plasma Gun the player has (barons are extremely pain resistant).

And what about Cacodemons/Pain Elementals/Lost Souls? Pain Elementals can be a major threat, especially when your only weapon is a rocket launcher.


I completely forgot about the Cacodemons and Pain elementals (and Lost souls) My list was generated on the spot and I did not consider situations for my tier ranking.

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KiiiYiiiKiiiA said:

YES I'M TALKING ABOUT YOU MEMENTO MORI (right at the start).


Erm... you do realise you can just run down the corridor opposite and just pick them off from there, relatively safely?

Anyway, one nasty shitty thing I don't like doing is putting an Arch-Vile behind a mid-texture. It's cheap and horrible, but it can ramp the difficulty of an area up considerably.

Or you can just have them teleport onto pillars to act as a real kick in the nuts in the middle of a fight.

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Or like this random wad I found in the archive: stick one of them viles at the back of each monster trap. (At least I got a BFG)

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*)Don't make rooms where the player can lure the monsters out of the room and kill them easily, make rooms which are complicated to escape (just like in HR).
*)Use unexpected ambushes (especially revenants or a demon beind the player).
*)Don't place cyberdemons in large rooms, make sure that the player won't have a large space to kill it, when the room is small the rockets are more dangerous, also make sure that if you provide the player a bfg so make sure that the player will be limited with the ammo (2-3 bfg shots on UV for a cyberdemon.
*)Place arch viles or a spiderdemon in a certain spot which allows them to attack the player wherever he goes.
A spiderdemon that can attack you at every single spot will make it hard to move in the map since you have to avoid it from noticing you.

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From what I've seen from playing WADs over the years. It's all about how monsters and items correspond to their enviroment. For example, don't bombard your map with heaps of the monsters but rather have monsters in the surroundings (like revenants) while you physically battle others (such as demons).

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