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Testing slaughtermaps

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I'd like to experiment and try making some maps that are severely bloated with monsters and have really monumentally large rooms but even with a good bit of practice and replaying, I can't honestly say I've completed even an eighth of the Slaugterfest 2011 maps. I guess I'm just not that good. However I'd love to make some insanely diabolical disturbing hellslaughters for other players to attempt to create UV-Max demos I could watch, but I'm hardly committed to acquiring the skills to be able to complete them on my own.

What are some ways I can test my maps to make sure they are not stupidly unfair, or worse yet, too easy for experienced demon slayers? I've gotten some pretty insane inspiration from watching a UV-Max of TimeOfDeath's "Degrassi," but I'm way too impatient to play through maps of that length myself. (the demo i watched was 59 minutes long)

I don't want to play my maps with god mode and IDKFA on, because I don't want to totally dismiss that my player will need health and ammo. I'm considering making some kind of dehacked patch that gives the player a ton of health, or makes monsters have half as much health or weapons twice as fast to test my maps with or something, but I don't want to go too far by making my levels appear as though I didn't test them thoroughly. What are some ways I can identify that I'm doing things that will really challenge a player without sealing off every thin ray of opportunity the player has to complete a battle?

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Difficult to do I'd imagine, because the tight gameplay of a quality slaughtermap is usually a result of playtesting ad nauseum. I'm not necessarily an expert on the topic, but I can attempt to offer insight based on the slaughter-type maps I've made.

- playtest room by room (might be obvious, but whatever).

I basically remove all monsters from the map except the ones I'm interested in testing (via difficulty settings), and play through the room using idfa (taking note of how much ammo I use). play through a couple times learning strategy for the room, getting a gauge on how much health/ammo is required in each area, if certain monsters need to be added/removed, etc. You may not need the skills to play through an entire slaughtermap in order to make one, but I definitely think you should be able to ensure each individual encounter is possible and actually interesting to play through. If the encounter is long and involved I may use iddqd up until the parts I'm interested in testing.

- things to avoid (imo, others may disagree):

* rooms that instantly kill player without fore-knowledge (like action19 --> 500 AVs, sort of thing):

in a uv-max situation I guess it's assumed the mechanics are memorized ahead of time, but to facilitate a fun playthrough and 'learning' period for the map, I think these should be avoided in general.

* circle-strafe fights!

a good portion of high-monster-count fights seem to follow the basic formula of: holy shit lotsa monsters --> move around awkwardly until you can maneuver around them all --> circle around and fire away..... Can be boring. So unless you're specifically going for that I'd avoid too many massive flat open spaces.

It's easy to throw a given number of monsters into a room and ensure it's possible by heuristically placing adequate health/ammo, but making it interesting to play is the harder part. I think it makes more sense to just suck it up and playtest the map :). When testing, why not just make extensive use of quicksave/slowdown?

You could also try and convince some of the local doomgods to playtest and offer critique. One of the big reasons I contributed to sf12 was for the quality feedback and gameplay suggestions, and it's always fun to watch experienced players tear through your maps ;D

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ZDooms offer a "buddha" cheat (using the console) where you lose health, but you can only drop to 1 health and not die. Maybe other ports offer something like that, too.

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Like Ribbiks mentioned, I'm sure you could find someone willing to playtest if you wanted that. At the very least, players will probably post FDAs of your map.

I use god mode sometimes for testing ammo balance. Then I play with saves to test parts of the map and health/ammo balance, while trying to judge if certain parts are harder on the player's health/ammo/etc. I keep playing with saves until I have the map memorized, then I try playing it through without saves.

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I actually think I answered my own question. I made myself a dehacked patch that halfed the speed of all the weapon frames except plasma gun and bfg to speed up my weapons, and doubled my max ammo and max health for some extra handicap to help myself out.

I'm making an impaired judgement that if I run into some pretty good difficulty with my own maps, it should be extra hard in standard doom mode then right?

The idea is to soften up my own playtesting experience, because testing and retesting my own rooms can get pretty boring and make me play lazier. Maybe I could trim some health off the monsters. I just don't want to go overboard and nerf everything too unrealistically.

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Sped up weapons can lead to a bad bias in trapmaking, especially if they rely on a tight crowd control. And it will be hard to fine-tune timings of everything in general. Imo dehacked patch would be ok to use for sf2011-like spammy maps, but for something like okuplok's untitled2, sped up weapons are a no-no.
Still, the best way is to find a skilled player with tastes similar to yours, or just share a WIP here to get some input from a bunch of players, as others have stated.

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boris said:

ZDooms offer a "buddha" cheat (using the console) where you lose health, but you can only drop to 1 health and not die. Maybe other ports offer something like that, too.

ReMooD has instant kill, if anything hurts you, you die.

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Test it with the same settings as players must use to play.
Turn off auto-aim and always-run.

If you err making it too hard, then only some players will see it as a challenge. It is easy to make it too hard for most of us to enjoy.
If you err making it too easy, then there are still many players who will be able to play it and enjoy it. Most players are just like you.

To test: put in some extra health and ammo at critical locations (just for testing). If you have played more than 10 times, then take some of them out because that much experience on your own level is a cheat too.

Avoid the same-old things that you have seen on other maps.
We seek novelty. Extreme monster counts can be novel, or not.

** Suggestions and my opinion on how to design such levels.

Let the player adjust their play to their own ability by choosing where they stand and fight and where they run.

Put in some place to defend at some distance from the monsters.
Make this area complicated so the player has some interest in defending it.
Provide several escape routes that are dangerous, but less dangerous than getting overrun. This can be done in several layers.
The farthest can have narrower doorways that limit how many monsters come through at once.
If the player gets into trouble they can backup until they can survive. Provide some ammo and health in such panic-hole locations.

Add a few areas that favor the monsters so that bad choices by the player are rewarded appropriately. They can have 4 or 5 passages that the monsters can swarm in simultaneously.
Provide an alternate entrance that the monsters find eventually.
Do not use teleporters here, the player must be able to judge that it is a death trap.

If there is way for the player to get the advantageous position,
then even better.

Provide multiple floor levels, vertical separation, balconies.

Limit the ability to circle and shoot everything.
Break up the open areas with obstructions.
Give the monsters some passage to get behind the circle-shooter.

Avoid perfect symmetry in design and monster placement, use approximate symmetry and functional-design as they are more interesting.

Choose your design style and stick too it. If it intends to reward player movement and strategy then limit the use of open teleporters.
Because open teleporters move the monsters with no visible structure, they feel unfair to someone frantically trying to survive.

Avoid learn-by-dying traps. Players want something to test their skills against, not be the victim of a cheap-shot.

The better players will stand and fight where they are comfortable.
Players that are getting overwhelmed should backup to some area they can defend.

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I sort of ballpark the ammo initially using this rough formula:

Box of shotgun shells/bullets ='s 10 low level kills (humans, imps and demons/spectres)

Box of rockets ='s 3 kills for cacos', 2 kills for rev's/hellknights and 1 1/2 kills for barons/manc's (it equals 12 kills for low level monsters due to misses)

plasma cell ='s 2 cacos/mancs/hellknight or 1 1/2 baron's or 15 low level monsters

bulk cell ='s 1/2 cyberdemon or spidermastermind or 3-4 barons/cacos
(these are the hardest to calculate when using the bfg)

that's a good start and then it's playtest, playtest, playtest

there use to be a program called thing count that was useful here

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