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New To DOOM mapping have some questions

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Hi DoomWorld! I am a part time indie game dev and have recently been kicking it old school playing DooM and having fun with the WADS posted here. I thought it would be a fun side project to mess around making a few of my own. I have already played around with DoomBuilder2 and on the tech side of things I'm completely fine. But I am still a sort of noob at DooM WADS and outside of DooM/2/xpacs I have barely dipped my feet into the WADS out there. So what kind of gameplay/enemies/traps/level design is found to be stale/boring/annoying. Basically I'm look for a quick crash course on all the things in WADS people really are not fond of. Thanks!

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Overly linear gameplay. Provide some possibility for exploration and some alternate routes.

Flat and orthogonal rooms. This isn't Wolfenstein 3D, so work out irregular shapes and different height levels into the map.

As for traps, try to avoid death pits of no escape (like the one right at the start of E1M3) since they kill the action. Give a way out (even if just a little teleporter pad) or put barriers around them. Otherwise, all traps are more or less fine. It's mostly a question of not making them too repetitive: if every interesting pickup item (new weapons, armor, keycards, powerups, etc.) opens a closet full of chaingunners in your back, that'll get old fast; but this doesn't mean you cannot use traps like that at all.

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I've sometimes had the tendency to fill up some of my levels with too many switches aka the dreaded switch hunt. I recommend you don't fall into that trap :) Also, make sure the player knows exactly what a given switch activates.

It might be obvious, but make sure you try and use the full potential of the monsters. For instance: A Revenant has melee abilities, so it might be a good idea not to cram him into a small cage where you can easily dodge his rockets and he can't get close to you. I'm not sure that people find it annoying, but it's definitely no fun either :)

No nazi soldiers or commander keens.

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I agree with all the advices above, they are actually great, as they cover most of the real newbie's mistakes.

To add a few ones: (maybe not as important, and some of them may be obvious)

  • No instant-death traps the player couldn't predict.
  • If you place hitscan enemies or an archvile, provide some cover for the player to hide. It's a bad idea to place a harmfully lot of them in a wide open space without a safe spot.
  • Pain elementals (and their lost souls) are generally considered annoying, so even if you could place them effectively to fill all the space with lost souls - don't do it. Let the player at least a chance to take them down before they plague all the air.
  • People are used to see some kind of progression in a mapset or just a map. Don't make the high-tier enemies appear soon (before the low tier). On the other hand, it's up to you how fast you want to unfold the progression.
  • Well, it's bad when your map consists of just rectangular rooms connected with doors or corridors. And adding a lot of detail doesn't help it at all, even if you might think it does. Much more interesting are variously interconnected and thematically unified environments.
  • Doom is about killing enemies, don't be afraid to throw them to the player in multiple numbers, as opposed to 1-by-1 killing typical for games like Doom 3. Fights get fun then, sometimes even if you exaggerate the monster counts, which I don't recommend though.
  • Another obvious thing about design, make sure the player don't have trouble finding the mandatory path, the required keycard etc. But at the same time, it disgusts some people if you treat them as a goldfish, serving everything right in front of their noses. Exploration aspect of gameplay shouldn't be underestimated.
Those were just for you to get an idea, what makes a bad or a good design choice. The last few ones are closer to my personal opinion than objective facts, treat them as seriously as you want.

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Some good suggestions here but I'd be more tempted to encourage you to play a lot of Doom, work out what you like and then make something true to your favoured style. I am always more interested in seeing something that shows some of the author's character than something maybe suffering a little from being generic due to being made for audience.

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purist said:

I am always more interested in seeing something that shows some of the author's character than something maybe suffering a little from being generic due to being made for audience.

Seconded for great justice.

My advice on top of what's been given would be to study the shit out of Doom and Doom 2's maps. Learn how it's all done. There's no real need to go for some of the TNT/Plutonia trickery really (especially when it's mostly convoluted stuff that source ports can do more efficiently and cleaner) but knowing how to do anything seen in the main games is crucial -- don't ever let a lack of knowhow get in the way of your vision.

Because your vision is what it's all about. Come up with concepts, original ones if you can. Use the limitations of the engine in creative ways. Make sure your ideas come first before any kind of trickery of gimmickry (unless said gimmicks are integral to your concept, lord knows I've done more than a few maps of that nature).

And (this will sound odd, but...), play some pinball tables and analyse them to learn about a good flow. Integrate this knowledge into your mapping.

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1) Welcome!

2) Yup to purist & Jayextee. So unless you're working on a community project, make the map(s) for yourself first, and your audience second. Make a map that you have fun playing/testing. Although you'll probably receive a lot of critical feedback at first, so it's up to you how you want to balance external influences with your internal vision.

Moving on to my favourite element of Doom mapping, the Art of Good Secrets is a delicate one; all good secrets should include at least two (2) of the following features:

hinted at (highly recommended)
- different texture
- flickering light
- secret room visible from outside
- Doom sense (it just 'feels' like there should be a secret there, even if there are no overt hints)

contains items useful to players (recommended)
- if you're making an ammo-starving map, put ammo
- if it's appropriate (lots of imps & pinkies) put a Berzerk
- if you're making a health-starving map include health
- if you're making an exploration map include a secret key (controversial)
- don't be cheap - the harder the secret is to find, better the rewards should be

opens a shortcut (optional)
- a way to bypass a section of your map
- a shortcut back to an earlier area
- an interlude in an entirely new area

lets you get the drop on enemies (optional)
- gives you a way to access an ambush more safely
- turns you from prey to predator

reveals hidden map elements (aesthetic)
- depending on your mapping style, you might have a narrative in mind:
ex: your map is a techbase taken over by hellspawn, so the secret
may reveal the hell-portal that the demons first came through, with
dead marines all around.

There's a lot more that could be said about secrets, and I've barely scratched the surface, but those are the basics as I see them. IMO, the purpose of secrets is twofold: 1) to thrill the player, and 2) to balance out higher difficulties. I believe it's entirely reasonable to make a map that, on higher difficulties, is impossible to beat without finding at least a couple of secrets. Your preferences may vary, of course.

Good luck, and happy mapping. :^]

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schwerpunk said:

Haha, I knew which secret it would be before clicking the link.

I don't know why the E1M1 tunnel access isn't more popular to illustrate this point.

schwerpunk said:

lets you get the drop on enemies[/b] (optional)
- gives you a way to access an ambush more safely

Heretic's dungeons map has some good examples of that.

Another possible use for secrets: to bring the player's arsenal up to what it should be. Suppose you design a series of maps for continuous play, but you want to accommodate pistol starters too (because, just like only playing in ultra-violence, pistol starts are the One True Way of playing Doom and anything else is a heresy). Then you can put a secret with a shotgun or chaingun or something near the start. There are several examples of that in both Doom and Doom II.

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Go back about a year on this Forum and start reading.
Similar questions have appeared and directly related answers have been given about every month.

There are several documents that provide insight. I am writing another one, but it is not quite done yet. You can get level mapping manuals, and guides at several sites.



1. Do not start with one room, and try to expand it. Create rough boxes for all your major elements, all at one time.

2. Create a theme, and a context. Create a reason for what the monsters are doing, that the player can discover. Give the player something more than to run and shoot everything that moves.

3. Rough it out first, then refine. Move things around and setup relationships while they are rough boxes. It is important to do this before you put so much work into something that you can no longer delete it.

4. Major buildings first, connections next, then small rooms.

5. Avoid symmetry. Do not place items and monsters in predictable patterns.

6. Avoid the monster in wall niche trap, or other player 'gotchas'.
It is not a contest, and killing the player does not get you a prize.
Almost killing the player makes them angry.
No excitement for the player makes them bored.
There is a middle ground there somewhere.

7. Two chaingunners sprung on the player at close range, with no warning, is unpleasant. A dozen chaingunners at a distance, with some chance to see them and plan an attack, is a challenge, and perfectly survivable.

8. Do not force the players path or actions. There are sneaky players, snipers, run-amok players, explorers, and other types. They want to play in their own style. Provide opportunity for each, which means letting the player choose their method of attack, and providing alternative paths to the goals, sniping locations, variety, etc..

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These are definitely great pointers here, all of them. To add a little note, NEVER stop improving. Look back at your past mapping efforts and think what you could've done better.

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MFG38 said:

These are definitely great pointers here, all of them. To add a little note, NEVER stop improving. Look back at your past mapping efforts and think what you could've done better.

Yup to this, too.

You may feel like your first maps are masterpieces, simply because you've spent so much effort on them. And you should feel proud - there's a lot to learn when you're starting out. But when you look back on your earlier attempts, you'll realize just how much you've improved.

On that note, your first map(s) should be very short, so you can maximize your learning before getting bogged down in a months long project.

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I typically get bored when maps have "cut and paste" sectors. That is just a pet peeve of mine. By cut and paste, I mean each element of design is repeated over and over. It could be too many linedef pillars or multiple rooms that are identical in terms of design.

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