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Doom Juan

How do you go about designing your levels?

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This is a question really aimed at established mappers in the Doom community, with completed maps that are on the whole recieved well by most.

I had asked a similar question in a previous thread, but it has since turned more into a showcase of a level I'm working on.

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sgt dopey said:

I just start by drawing a few lines in Doom Builder and go from there

It's funny, I almost never plan what I am actually going to do. I might have a basic theme but I wouldn't say that I plan anything out, I do tend to stick to single levels though. Having said that my current wad is going to be 2-3 maps as it would suit the structure of my current, single level, map better.

But as said above, I start by drawing out a room or an area and seeing what it becomes. From that I will get a better idea what this map is going be. I will then destroy this inital creation to then flesh out the expanded idea more. I might repeat the destruction a few times before I settle down and create the map properly. After all creating a small area or a few rooms, while I enjoy adding detail, aren't hard to remake in a better more interesting creation.

I do however save some rooms as prefabs in DB2 so that I can insert them back into my expanding level. I must stress though that apart from one room ("The Void" - my ever present super secret room) I never reuse a fully prefabed room. Although prefab columns and other decorative stuff I do.


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I like to break it down like this.

Map Size

Depending on map size you might want to take different techniques, typically for a small map you can get away with drawing some rooms then connecting them together larger maps I like to outline the whole map first to get a good idea of scale.

Theme choose a primary theme and a secondary theme for instance your primary theme my be a tech base and secondary theme the surrounding rocks caves etc.

Style this is a very important aspect a lot of maps utilize squares and rectangles others may use a lot of 45-degree architecture which ever it may be your stylizing will play a large role in the appearance of your maps and choosing the right one is always key! I've expressed this point many times keep in mind to consider textures materials and what that means is they actually have physical dimensions for instance bricks that are 16 units in height and 32 units in width would also have 16 units in depth! Then think what would be behind those bricks maybe some kind of rock or dirt texture?

Example: (Ignore the palette work in progress)

The bricks have actual dimensions and beyond them there is other layers also notice this part of the hallway has been broken and is shifted. When you start mapping in this kind of manner you'll start creating much more interesting architecture.

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For my latest map, I speed mapped out a bunch of blocky rooms textured with GRAYBIG and with only a vague idea of the layout I wanted. A lot of the rooms were just boxes with no real purpose as a result of this. Once I had the layout complete, I started focusing more on gameplay; one room that had just been a square got another section attached to it with a chaingunner ambush, for example. Once the gameplay kind of worked, I started giving it some basic texturing, adding and moving vertices so everything didn't feel like boxes, doing lighting and interconnecting areas of the map via windows whenever I could.

I posted a screenshot of this map in the pictures thread:

I've added more contrast (read: less brown) to that area since posting it. Unfortunately, I didn't think to grab one from before I started detailing it. I've since decided to add another section onto the map, because it felt too short with just the original speed mapped layout. I'm going to do the same thing for the new section. This method is working much better for me than the way I normally map, where I texture as I go along, but unfortunately the layout does still feel kind of boxy.

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I often draw my map on paper, with basic layout and gameplay ideas, and most importrant tags. It changes more or less while recreating in editor, but is always better than maps I don't plan.

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There's a thread from about 3 weeks ago that discusses some approaches to developing maps.

Three key steps appear to be:

1. Select a theme for the map (or set of maps)
2. Work out the logic of the map
3. Create the map in an editor

Along the way you'll probably find that you're deviating from what you originally laid out. Many times it will work quite well; sometimes you may find yourself going back to the drawing board.

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I find my maps are typically segemented around various centerpeices: a garden, a series of streets, a massive atrium, or perhaps just a common theme such as interflowing nukage. This acts as a hub from which the side halls and other ancillary details pour out in order to give cohesion. Picking a structural theme or series of setpieces also gives the map a sense of identity, creating landmarks which evoke feelings (security, mistrust, dread, etc.) based on how you set them up.

My favorite technique is to make the main passage of the level (what you'd speedrun, we'll call it the "highway") as frantic as possible, forcing you to duck into any number of "alleys" or "parking lots," which should provide temporary security at best. Try to increase flow into dead zones with powerups. Limit your use of monster-blocking, player-passable linedefs only to help them past "sticky corners" and other outcroppings. Be conscientious primarily of your ammo/monster ratio, what weapons you want to supply the player to use in the different areas, then focus on health, then goodies.

It helps to turn on IDDT while you playtest the level to see how monsters flow. It's an easily-overlooked detail, but you have to think about how the player's macro-level movement through the levels draws the monsters around. You want to avoid areas where monsters get congested on your "highway" as they're following the player's progression, except when this is the effect you're looking for.

This is just one style of mapping, of course, but I find the maps I've made in this format are really fun for an extended playthrough, and always keep you on your toes with each advance.

TL;DR: think of the map as a "hopper" through which your monsters feed and make sure they can "flow" the way you want them to.

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Pay attention to the world around you. Once you come up with a theme, use buildings and structures as a means of getting that artistic creativity that is necessary for a good map. I usually start by thinking of how the building I'm creating would function in real life.

For example, if you are designing a secret lab or whatever, think of rooms a lab would have. These could include testing labs, chemical plants, computer rooms, etc. If your map takes place outdoors, all you really have to avoid would be making large open areas with no detail. Make some fences or unaccessable buildings for effect.

Lastly, and most importantly, make sure the map is FUN TO PLAY! Don't spam monsters and try to be creative in the placements of your "Things". Test your map many times and see what areas seem to be lacking in excitement, and see if you can fix them. :)

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