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Project PAR (defunct: evolved into Echelon.wad)

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Idea: Doom2 level set, where the objective is to make maps the player can expect to beat on the "PAR" value, 1st time out.

Doom2's par scores look like this...

Map01 - 00:30 *
Map02 - 01:30
Map03 - 02:00
Map04 - 02:00
Map05 - 01:30
Map06 - 02:30 "
Map07 - 02:00
Map08 - 02:00
Map09 - 04:30
Map10 - 01:30
Map11 - 03:30 "
Map12 - 02:30 *
Map13 - 02:30
Map14 - 02:30
Map15 - 03:30
Map16 - 02:30
Map17 - 07:00
Map18 - 02:30
Map19 - 03:30
Map20 - 02:30 "
Map21 - 04:00 *
Map22 - 02:30
Map23 - 03:00
Map24 - 02:30
Map25 - 02:30
Map26 - 05:00
Map27 - 05:30
Map28 - 07:00
Map29 - 05:00
Map30 - 03:00 "

...making for mostly a-couple-of-minute map experiences, for a par-achieving player. That's just over an hour and a half to play through the entire project - a nice alternative to an action movie for your evening's entertainment. Lightweight, lighthearted, perhaps ending up running more than you're gunning.

I guess the original intent of the par value was to encourage speedruns, but for the sake of this project it would serve as an "expected playtime" value, not a dare for you to limbo under. The average Doom player's patience threshold has likely waned over the years. Roughly speaking, I wanna have the same chance at making par on my first playthrough in these levels as I have of finding all or most secrets in a standard wad...

I'm working on this on my own time, but any mapper's free to join, and I'll share the resources (quite a few new texture sets and a few new monsters, basically). No set deadline is currently in mind. Sometime within the next five years...

I'm personally mapping with ZDOOM these days, so that's the port of preference.

" = Story text. Extra points for style when the map reflects at least some part of the text.

- FILE quick-links:
- Community texture base (these and Doom II's default textures are the project's "skeleton" graphics - for when all else fails).
- Original textures, created for Project PAR.
- Two new monsters are ready for PAR: Clusterfiend and Midadfiend. Btw - if you don't wanna map for PAR, but would like some new monsters, feel free to use these on their own.

FINAL EDIT (25th September 2016):
This project kinda collapsed in on itself, what with the short Doom II PAR times being hard to couple with maps that aren't super-easy to just exit permaturely (yeah I could script around it but I'm not a great scripter). Basically, the maps I built took longer than the PAR times to beat, even if I kept them short. Nonetheless, the impetus from the project carried it far enough that it is turning into a different megawad instead - Echolon.wad, soon to be released.

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Honestly, this seems like an interesting idea for a project. Feels like the sort of thing that could be a blast to play in the more traditional, arcade-y fashion of the original games.

To clear up some of the things you seem unfamiliar with:
-Map names and intermission texts can be changed for the original engines using a DeHackEd patch. As your preferred port is ZDoom, you'll be glad to know MAPINFO is even simpler and let's you do that and so much more.
-Likewise, using Marine's Best Friend compatible sky transfers (which prboom-plus supports on some settings) means you can change sky on every map. See Community Chest 3 for an example of that being heavily used. Again, ZDoom with MAPINFO makes that even easier.

I'd say this could be fine in the vanilla or limit removing preference that Doomworld has, but could definitely work in Zdoom too :)

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We've been experimenting with the idea of short maps on Czech forums too, in fact. But the project is more or less in development hell due to inactivity of most mappers. Not a bad idea. Only it seems a little unspecified, I mean, more rules about theme or style would be good too.

Hey, let's add a rule: The maps must be all speedmaps, and they must be done in the same time as the respective PAR is, but it hours. E.g. Map01 would be a 30min speedmap that will provide 30 seconds long gameplay. Map03 would be a 2 hour speedmap that provides 2 minutes long gameplay, and so on. :)

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This sounds like a really cute project idea, although I disagree with the notion of making each par time a relative speed map time thing or whatever. Most of these maps shouldn't take too long to build due to the nature of the project.

I mean, somebody could try to build an utterly massive level and make it beatable in a minute and a half to two minutes, but really, that would be nuts to play test and design. The only "long" map in the whole wad would be Map 28.

Also, what would the policy be on custom resources? Stock textures and assets only? Custom music? Also, would we be using Maps 31 - 32?

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BlueFeena said:

The only "long" map in the whole wad would be Map 28.

17, too. I agree that time limits on production seem pointless given the size of the map will be dictated by play time, but scifista42 isn't wrong to point out that stuff does tend to languish on these forums past the initial spurt of activity.

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Thank you for making that list! I was wondering if there was a list of par times for all the maps somewhere. I kinda wanna go through all of Doom 2 and see if I can complete the maps under par, as I'm not good enough to do an actual competitive speedrun.

Do most megawads come with new par times? I would think Alien Vendetta would seeing as though it comes it's own dehacked patch.

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walter confalonieri: Yes. "Really Short Maps" is a good project synonym for this. The par times give any mappers taking this one something tangible (yet wonderfully wobbly) to shoot for, and defines a soft roof for how long a map can be.

Phobus: Those are some good potential pointers on an overall course towards such a project as this' completion. I'm unfamiliar with those tools at present, so right now a bare bones doom2.wad, would be the least risky first step. Adding a community chest is tempting...

scifista42: Your last point first: No. Definetely no hours-long maps on this one. They have their own charm, but "Doomed On Par" would be just that - making maps that you can expect to finish under Doom2's default par time, while simultaneously being able to expect a decent score in the other values (items, secrets).

BlueFeena: Yes. We're talking tray of aperitifs, not a full fledged buffet. Even the 5-7 minute expectancy maps would be small by most project standards.

40oz: In my experience (Doom-wise, that's mostly '94-'00, though I've always kept an eye on Doomworld over the years), most megawads avoid the dehacked patches and leave the default values in. Of course, the higher production value of a project (and this one would be low key as long as I'm the janitor), the more nitpicky management tend to get. I expect later megawad efforts might have left in accurate, custom-fitted par values, but this one is about taking a fresh look at those mostly ignored original values.

The project GUIDELINES so far:
- No placements of blue armor or megasphere, since the project levels would be short in nature, and can block a player's goal while attempting 100/100/100 runs.
- For an expert player, it should be possible to achieve 100/100/100 secrets/items/kills while also making par. All difficulty levels except Nightmare apply.
- Its for ZDOOM.
- Old-school secure maps. Meaning you don't have to jump, duck or freelook in order to finish a map, but it won't break the map to do so. In other words, these "new" functions are legal but not required. You should be able to comfortably meet the par time on medium skill without applying jump-induced shortcuts.
- Priority 1 skill level: Medium (HMP) as played by "the average player". Keep your evil genius ideas on Hard (UV) if you can retro-fit them to the map without breaking the gameplay balanced for medium skill. Forget about Too Hard (Nightmare) and make the Easy settings (ITYTD/HNTR) a "skeleton crew" version of HMP, perfectly playable without using the run function. Keep in mind that easy-skill level players don't duck out of the way much.
- Expect the player to apply only a handful of saves/retries in order to complete the map, if any. No hairsbreadth encounter grinds on medium skill. If you need to keep the map trimmed to the threshold of your own skill level in order to maintain your own interest in the map, and you happen to be an above-average skilled player, keep these encounter types to the hard skill setting.
- Keep haystack needle switch-hunts non-existent and puzzle-solving at an absolute minimum. Avoid "puzzles" altogether unless you can make one that's both immediately challenging and quickly revealing within the par timeframe, which is a bit of a paradox.
- Clearly marked exits. Easily identifiable exit zones throughout, to keep the player forward focused. Generally, the earlier in the map the player can directly identify or through gameplay feel the approach of the the exit, the better.
- 30 maps only. Meaning, no secret maps. Since the first project goal is to get on par from one place to another, the existence of dual exits doesn't do the project any favors.
- No reliance on hardcore tricks, like northwall running or rocket-boosting to solve the maps. The occurance of straferunning is inevitable mid-combat and a hallmark part of the Doom experience, but its application should not be required to make par.
- Each intermission map-name graphic (the ones using the bulky red Doom fonts) must reflect the expected par time in question, so that the target time of the coming map is available to the player. For example, MAP07 "Dead Simple", which normally reads during intermission as "ENTERING DEAD SIMPLE" should in the par.wad equivalent read "ENTERING 01:30-DEAD SIMPLE". This fact must be kept in mind when naming your map, as it reduces the maximum displayable map name length. In short - keep your WIP map name short. Preferably no more than eight characters.
- Filename submission standards: PARMAP##.WAD, e.g. "PARMAP07.WAD" would replace Doom2's Map07 - Dead Simple.
- To call your map done, a demo is required from each designer, showing the final map to be achievable under par on medium skill (HMP).
- Hard weapon-access limits, per map. Monster placement is also predetermined, with a secret placement of each weapon generally being available one map prior to its in-the-player's-path release (more info in the linked post).
- Individual secrets should tally to a whole number (e.g. 20%, 25%, 50%). A low number of secrets (0, 1 or 2) is recommended, but higher numbers (4, 5, 10), though not encouraged, are allowed for the lengthier maps. This in the name of things easy, fast and arcade-like. Even an inattentive player should expect to find at least one secret.
- Place co-op startpoints (7) and deathmatch spawnpoints intelligently, but don't let these get in the way of your quicksnack encounter ideas.

Additional guidelines and info:
- Doomed On Par uses doom2.wad as foundation, but aims to have largely new wall and floor graphics, plus a couple of brand new monsters thrown in.
- Project files will be posted to this project blog.
- The main sources for the project's initial resource wad were Community Chest 4 and certain picks (chiefly Nick Baker's) from Afterglow's texture page. Please note that when it comes to the project's animated textures, I'm at the moment using Eternal Doom as a base. Those textures from this project that overlap their respective doom2.wad entries are likely to continue to do so.
- Use of the Wolfenstein themed textures won't be allowed for this project. There's no map 31/32 for starters, and its considered too wide a stretch of the intended Doom theme.
- Use of ZDOOM's stealthed "ghost" monsters will be allowed, but their application should be much more conservative than that of the standard monsters. Ghost variants of the usual monsters should be rare, thoughtfully placed and when they appear, very rarely be allowed to roam the geometry freely. In my experience, the melee-capable ones are largely good for being immobile guardians of powerups, the missile throwers work well in tight spaces (like pillar-tops) where normal monsters tend to perform pirouettes. To make the long ride towards map 30 a varied ride, the stealthies should be a welcomed variation in the mid- to late- maps. On maps where the release charts don't state their expressed presence, stealth monsters are probably best left out, lest they end up stealing the thunder from their tried and tested brethren. Stealthed Demons, Cacos and Revenants were initially left out entirely, but have currently been given late map20's slots to back up their respective end-bosses. This trio is generally dis-encouraged.
- Leave room for error. Particularly on the medium skill-set and lower, but also on hard. DOT-pits should have ways out of them and the player can call back an important elevator if he missed it the first time around and still make par.
- Don't go completely overboard with detail, in what's designed to be a piecemeal experience. The player is unlikely to dwell too much on map detail in this one, but rather breeze through. Keep screen readability on low resolutions in mind.
- Horizontally aligned, clean looking fastrun-friendly textures might work particularly well for this one, if you're designing a map where you're chasing down the clock.
- Some creativity in use of moving sectors to create a time challenge would be interesting, but the bulk of the maps should likely be small but challenging monster encounters.
- Roughly speaking the level themes are as follows (maps 01-08 are already nailed down, though not finalised).
... "home-town apocalypse" (01-08)
... "Earth-moon exodus" (09-11)
... "urban (back in and around home-town)"(12-20)
... "other-dimensional; serene" (21-25)
... "other-dimensional; pyroclastic" (26-30)
... the specific map name suggestions are now in the ZMAPINFO portion of the original (& remixed) textures wad, which sprang out of the Pimp My Texture thread. File link in the first post, as well as the linked thread.
... Map 11 will feature earth, its population held and a finale featuring the evil switch that frees them.
... Map 20 should look like a city's core and optimally feature an uncloseable portal into another dimension as the exit area.
... Map 30 optimally features the "biggest demon you've ever seen", (but must be beatable in 3 minutes). Another IOS showdown will suffice, but if anyone has something even bigger lying around... :-)
- Most rules have exceptions. If you can show a practical, finished map example of why any of the above shouldn't apply to the overriding project goal of making par while having fun, then feel free.

These rules and guidelines will be added to, if activity and circumstance necessitates it. If par.wad is ever seen through to completion, it will be constructed to a pretty high standard before it is signed off on. Or not at all.

"Really short maps", basically!

EDIT History:
- Added entries about freelook, deathmatch and co-op.
- Asked around about the feasability of earth as a feature of Doom's sky, to resolve current story description of Map11's intermission text. Possible with GL ports. If an earth-in-the-sky map emerges, lets reconsider choice of Doom port over the current ZDOOM. Doomsday seems the likely choice if this occurs.

- Added rule on simultaneously making par and 100/100/100.

- Asked around about ambient sound effects. Includes some thoughts on their use in Map 01...
- Added "no blue armor or megasphere" rule, to avoid the potential of self-maiming becoming a requirement to achieve perfect scores.
- Switched to "latest update on top" for the rules and guideline listings.
- Uploaded Map01 beta. If a better Map01 idea emerges, this can easily be made into a latter stages map. For now, its a sketch of a potential way forward. NOTE: You'll need to download about 20 megabytes of texture packs (4). Sorry for the inconvenience, this is a WIP beta.
- Added note in guidelines about current plan for picking project resources and textures. If anyone knows this to be in conflict with Doomworld guildelines or otherwise, do get in touch.

- Posted beta versions of interconnected maps 01 and 02. New resources are integrated this time, so its just the one file needed to play.
- Currently working on assembling a texture theme for the project, using popular community resources. Interested mappers can check out this wad, though be warned that this is a first, rough & hairy sketch of a texture wad, so texture adresses may change around before its done.
- Posted weapons and monsters release charts in the workbench blog. Any interested mappers should take look at these to figure out the available design palette, per map number.
- Added guidelines on texture limitations, and the (sparse) use of ZDOOM's stealth monsters.

- Original textures wad containing amongst others Project PAR's sky textures has been released, including a ZMAPINFO with tentative map names. Basically, this means the background plate for all levels has now been filled in.
- Also included in this file are the basic components for the megawad's urban levels (maps 12-20), including sector-based forest modules.
- The file should get a public update at a later point (not this year), and feedback/requests to steer this process is welcome.
- The initial texture file, generated from available community textures, is still valid as project graphics, though exclusive use of the original artwork is encouraged. To keep this manageable, I'll keep the original (and new remix'ed) textures separate from the community compilation for the foreseeable future.

- After picking up an idea from map 27 in the 5 Years of Doom project, I've decided to do a weapons-reset during PAR, situated in the middle of the urban "home town" setting, where Doom marine meets up with a few survivors that he gives his excess luggage to. Here's the crowd in question. As you can see, they're all in God mode. Consequently, I'll have to re-balance the weapons-part of PAR's release charts. More fun placing the weapons twice anyway.
- Cleaned up the history post (this post), removing redundant info.

Project declared dead, imminently to be reborn as Echelon.wad - a more traditional megawad.

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32 will still work, just dont include a regular exit on 15 and 31. This way you get to utilise the par times of 31 and 32 in the project.

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Ragnor said:

32 will still work, just dont include a regular exit on 15 and 31. This way you get to utilise the par times of 31 and 32 in the project.

I'm thinking it would be better to take the shorter route to the target. The current number is 30.

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Since the project is for Zdoom, you could add some time counter on the screen, as the goal seems to be finishing the levels under the par times.

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It does indeed fit with the short theme. I guess it would be a bit difficult to make a cool secret map that short.

also, if this does happen, there must also be a version for Doom Episode 1; So that it may be named PAR Anomaly: Reborn. Right?

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Secret maps. Time Counters. Good music. Make content that can be merged to the maps wad without breaking anything, and likelihoods of inclusion will naturally rise. Its a jungle in there. 1st order is short & sweet maps. The two of yous are getting your appetites whetted for desert before there's even a main meal.

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Darch said:

That was just a suggestion.

And a good one. Which would make the gameplay kernel of the project a lot more readable. It would also patch a gap in the current "design" - the fact that there'll be no precursor for the player's expected par on Map01 - seeing as there's no text output before the game begins. Just menues.

Even if you had that countdown feature ready to go here and now, I would still be hesitant to include it - as it would be a very visible, in-your face feature, taking the focus from the map geometry, and potentially turning the project into a speedrun excercise, which it isn't.

The par times for this project are meant as expected times of arrival -player playing at his leasure - not a time to beat. It would still be neat as a part of a +/-'able HUD feature - but there's so far no resources allocated towards new GUI on this project - just maps and intermission graphics.

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Just posted playable betas of maps 01 and 02 to the megawad workbench corner of my webpage blog thingie.

I'll do a revision of post#8 while I'm at it, which has become the "rules post" for the project.

Just a quick edit to say that this project is dead. The project goals proved too rigorous. It is instead being reborn as a more traditional megawad, named Echelon. I'll make a separate post for it once it is in open beta.

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