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Zalausai

Level design.

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I have made a few levels now, but I just can't make things asymmetrical. For some reason all of my rooms are symmetrical. Has anyone else had this problem? You know, not being happy with your own work unless it is symmetrical. Is there any advice on how to overcome this? I tried to make an asymmetrical level and room, but it just doesn't feel right so I am dissatisfied with it for that reason.

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I dunno. I do a little of both now and then.

My main issue is that I get a big, empty canvas, and then suddenly draw utter blanks on what to do with it.

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I used to make a lot of symmetrical rooms and level designs when I started getting into more detailed mapping. Symmetrical rooms are easier to detail and quick to make.

Drawing rooms and layouts on paper really helped me break free from that. One thing that I like to do, it's kinda strange really, but it helps me, is I like to draw dots on paper, in sort of random places. Not too random where I'm kinda haphazardly poking dots all over the paper, but just pick a few areas on a blank piece of paper and put about 6-10 dots. Then connect the dots with lines forming a polygon, just to see the kinda weird shape you come up with. Sometimes they turn out looking really cool.

If your shapes still feel too weird, it might help to make at least two of your dots perfectly horizontal or perfectly vertical from each other, so that your shapes don't feel too unreal.

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My advice would be to play through the levels in the original Doom. John Romero's maps in particular feature a lot of good looking though non-symmetrical areas.

(Oddly his Doom 2 maps seem to feature more symmetry than those in Doom 1, particularly Circle of Destruction and The Abandoned Mines.)

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There is nothing wrong with symmetrical rooms as long as you dont make every room symmetrical. Normally I like to go 5-6 rooms non-symmetrical then make 1 that is symmetrical.

Try starting out with a basic shaped room then slapping other rooms onto it in various spots then bam!! you got yourself a multiple pathed starting area.

The best way to make maps is to try to stray away from just making rooms connected by hallways and doors. Try making room mixed together and separating them with different floor heights and rails.

Dont forget to make rooms or details that look nothing like anything else you have made, because its those rooms that will stick in peoples heads. The problem with most maps these days is mappers seem to make rooms look nice with detail but they look generic in nature and dont stick out. Like the starting area in doom2 map01 has a pretty iconic look that when people see something that looks like it they automatically say HEY!!! that room looks like map01 in doom2 NICE!!!

Thats just my 2 cents

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Try taking one half of that symmetrical room and reshaping the vertices to create something asymmetrical. Some of the best gamespaces I ever created were a result of just dragging vertices around. Never underestimate the power of splitting linedefs! Not everything needs to be drawn from scratch.

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Thanks for the tips everyone. The ideas to add to existing areas and to move vertices around are helpful as well. I'll try those for now.

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Make CTF maps.

Aw maaaan, that's a five star post right there.

Op, try designing "natural" maps, with caves, grottoes, parks, rivers and so on. Some other dude recommended this before, in one of the threads like this.

Also, it's impossible to create unique and interesting encounters on purely symmetrical maps, because they do not allow the most efficient use of monsters, so your encounters and traps should influence the layout of the map from the start.

...

Oh, and make CTF maps. Man this cracks me up.

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Something that helped me to overcome this was drawing basic non-symmetrical shapes, then translating those into rooms in Doom. Like a trapezoid start, but then add a few more lines. An over abundance of 90 degree angles and perfectly-straight walls gets boring very quick, I find.

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Alwaysdoomed said:

. . .

The best way to make maps is to try to stray away from just making rooms connected by hallways and doors. Try making room mixed together and separating them with different floor heights and rails.

. . .

There are some real pearls here, but this is the best piece of advice, imho. It's what really helped me get away from symmetrical and boring level layouts. Say you've got this as your base (fig. 1):


Figure 1 : quick example of bad, symmetrical room design

There are a few things you could do to break up this boring design. In my example (fig. 2), I've mashed the central room with the right-most room, replacing the door with some very simple height and light variation. The left-most room has been rendered inaccessible from the central room by a large, impassible 'window.' I could have just made the left-most door require a key to open, but the new and improved layout in figure 2 cuts down on pointless backtracking. Of course, all of this depends on what type of flow you're going for. Backtracking isn't always bad, but unless you have something interesting for the player to do on their way back, then it's best avoided imho.


Figure 2 : quick example of improved, asymmetrical room design

You can see that from such a simple start as combining two rooms, several changes have come about almost organically. The elongation of the NUKAGE pool; the moving of the left-most door to the upper-left hallway (teased at through the window - if we were talking about things, I'd also recommend placing a sought after item in there, to give the player some motivation to get to that door). And as Pavera pointed out, by simply dragging a few vertices around, you get a significantly more dynamic feel.

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Something's definitely wrong when you start to make too many symetrical areas. And speaking from my own experience is pretty hard to break away from that habit. I don't think its lazyness why I do this, but more a lack of ideas. Symmetry is probably one thing to be careful of when making maps. Too much of it will probably make the map boring and offer poor gameplay.

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I got too symmetrical when I was low in ideas and rushed maps. MAP06 of WOS and a few areas of other maps in WOS. Never even knew what that word meant until after WOS was released. Now it comes down to imagination to avoid this.

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pcorf said:

I got too symmetrical when I was low in ideas and rushed maps. MAP06 of WOS and a few areas of other maps in WOS. Never even knew what that word meant until after WOS was released. Now it comes down to imagination to avoid this.


Heh, I remember a map on WOS...Soul Extraction, or something like that? The symmetry of that map kind of killed my enthusiasm and I didn't bother trying to get past it. Lovely other maps though. :)

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It may not be the best advice to say to never be symmetric, but instead to encourage people to never be exclusively symmertirc. The human eye is naturally drawn toward symmetry, so it can still be a useful layout planning or visual feature.

One thing I tend to like and use alot is the notion of "semi-symmetry" -- that is, have two sides of an area be nearly symmetric, but with notable (as in, not just a few minor) differences so as to mix things up a little and make things more interesting.

I guess to toot my own horn, NEIS E2M3 is a map where I applied this philosophy a lot. The layout of the main area is pretty easy to grasp and feels very structured because of its relative symmetry, but the left and right extremities of the map are very different (and the paths to them are not identical either, because that'd be ugly :P ).

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I don't think there's anything necessarily wrong with symmetrical rooms (though aysmmetrical ones can obviously be good or better), but levels/large areas shouldn't be symmetrical.

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It's funny when I see people having this problem.... because recently I've been trying to make more symmetrical areas because in the last 10 levels I've designed I can count my symmetrical scenes on hand. :P

I don't think symmetry is necessarily bad in itself, Plutonia is pretty damn symmetrical and it pretty much rules... and I'm going to second schwerpunk / Alwaysdoomed advice.

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Insecurity - it will go away.
Symmetry is often used to latch onto a "working" path in mapping or as a little game with oneself.

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darkreaver said:

Protip: make asymmetrical rooms.

Making asymmetrical gameplay is also good.

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Xaser said:

"semi-symmetry"


Music like this is a good aural example of that:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=57iAfzmUXvg
(here have a google/youtube link since its legal for them to essentially steal everyone's copyrighted creations but illegal for everyone else)
each "bar"/unit/pattern is a symmetrical slide mostly, but with subtle unique detail.

Most people think of symmetry as limited to "mirror"/left/right symmetry, but slides/rotations/reflections/scales are all possible (and all programmed behavior into doombuilder already). The mandelbrot set is scaled symmetry. I've always been interested in symmetry, maybe because it tricks my brain with a sort of zen where 2 pieces seem like the same thing. Or it soothes autism.. Symmetry if my favorite art tactic probably. Nature is full of it.

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I think people put a little too much emphasis in terms of how symmetry can impact gameplay. Xaser probably hit it on the head, here - having a couple of rooms be symmetrical isn't a bad thing by default. People grow obsessed with this idea and a map can wind up looking very haphazard from a construction standpoint if you overstate it.

Come to think of it, I'm not sure if I've ever made a map that 100% lacked symmetry in all areas. I've always stressed variety from a design perspective, and as much as that means avoiding symmetry, it also means using it on occasion. In certain spot, it'll really help push the map forward in a fresh way.

Good map design doesn't boil down to one, single idea. I'd rather define it as interlocking several different concepts into a competent scheme.

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Maybe a cool idea for a project where you're not allowed to have any symmetry in the map. Symmetry isn't a bad thing, but imo it becomes more challenging to implement good gameplay. What happens on one side will probably the same on the opposite side also. What I see in some maps that even the monsters get placed symmetrical, which leads to boring and predictable gameplay. So approach symmetry with caution.

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If you start mapping with little idea of what you want, you will get a single room. Single rooms are symmetrical. Add detail to a single room will enhance the symmetry. As it grows it will keep the symmetry because it grows like a snowflake.

Start in an entirely different way.
Figure out multiple rooms and multiple paths between them before you draw a single thing. This breaks the single symmetrical room trap right there.

It helps to figure this as an engineering exercise. What is the function, what rooms are necessary, where are the corridors, where is the control room, do you provide a restroom, a foyer, a managers office.
If this is a cave, do the same thing but think up differing cave-like rooms, with waterways running between them.

Make ONLY ONE of each needed room and space them out a little.
Then add multiples of some rooms, but limit the patterns you use.
Offices are not laid out in a grid, they occupy nooks and crannies of the building that were left over after the power plant, shipping, and other MORE IMPORTANT areas got their first choice. Except for the bosses office, and only if he was on the design team.

(Which reminds me of the one case where the boss-to-be gave himself the whole third floor with his own foyer with a balcony and a flying bridge. The bridge has since been merged with the surrounding floor and turned into more offices (at several million dollars cost). The bosses foyer on the third floor is now offices. And he got into trouble with corporate for trying to appropriate money to pay for all these building changes.)

This is how buildings come to be the way they are. Use it in your designs and you will have no trouble with overbearing symmetry.

Design in eras. First pass is minimal, with only the necessary functionality.
Then imagine later renovations that have to either modify rooms or be squeezed in.

A room may have to be bent around an obstruction with the equipment
distributed between the two parts. Some areas will be old, narrow, dark, damp, and run-down, while the newer area will be larger, better lighted, and maintained. Limit the latter inhabitant modifications
(money, time, materials, labor, or any other reason you can imagine)
so the old constructions show through (which breaks up symmetry too).

This makes it much more interesting to explore because rooms are not exactly in the most obvious place, and are not comfortable squares.
But some logic can be seen in where they ended up and how they relate to the other rooms.

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Agreed. It's important to remember that every element has its place. It's like when you're learning to write: you're told to avoid clichés. If you get better, though, you get to the point where you can play with trite elements like cliché - adapting them to suit your purposes rather than relying on them as a crutch. I think that's the main difference between good symmetry and bad symmetry.

IMO, many gamers naturally think in terms of left-right symmetry, and we mappers can take advantage of this. For instance, in this hallway I just souped up there is a monster closet that opens on the right, and no hint of the secret on the left. But we gamers are no fools. The mind wants to balance out the equation, so naturally many of will check the left side, because of it's similarity. And, oh lawdy, what's this!

Additionally, a mapper can play with this intuition in different ways. One might be aware that many players will check the left side and put a clever trap in there. And thus the cerebral arms race between creator and player begins. Basically, it's important to take into account the mind of the gamer when you're making your map. What are the 'rules' of your map, and how might these influence their behaviour later in the level? Really fun stuff. :)

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