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hardcore_gamer

Creating megawads Vs single-level wads

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When most new mappers start their mapping carriers, most probably start with the dream of creating their very own megawad. A Doom game of their own. I wasn't any different.

However as time passed I started to question if there was any real good reason to actually make megawads instead of just single maps. There are 3 main reasons:

1. It can take a loooooooong time to make one that isn't bad so it can be a real time sink. There is a good chance that you just get bored with the project before you finish it.

2. Because it can take so long to finish one, it is always tempting to start creating filler maps simply so that you can get it over with faster, which makes the megawad worse.

3. Unless the megawad is really really good, most players probably won't finish it anyways and will thus never play many of the maps you made, and thus a lot of your effort will be wasted.

I have started to lean towards the idea that it's much better to just take your time creating a single good level and then release it to people. It means that you can get feedback for your maps more often, and also know that people will in fact play everything that you make instead of only playing a portion of your work and then just give up. Later if you have made enough levels, you can then just compile them into a single wad anyway and re-release it as a collection.

Do you agree or disagree? What do you think of megawads Vs single level wads?

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Your point 3 is pretty moot, in my experience, as the large number of individual maps released are broadly overlooked in favour of larger projects. I don't know what the download stats for my maps are on /idgames, but going by my own site statistics, in-thread feedback and the reviews, most people don't give them a go. Meanwhile, megawads, particularly big group projects with a range of names behind them, get a lot more attention.

Personally, I like little releases that'll take 1-20 minutes to blast through, comment on and forget, but I know it's big, unique or incredible things that I actually remember. I'd not be surprised if other people have this too, or have a habit of sticking to mappers that they know tend to produce work they enjoy.

If attention is what you're after, you'll need to do something big, whether that's an individual map or a megawad is down to you. If it's mapping you like, might as well do loads of small releases.

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It certainly is no task for beginners. If you're just starting out mapping, then I highly recommend making single map and short episode releases instead, and asking for as much constructive criticism on them as possible - and also taking that criticism so you can learn from your mistakes, learn the yeses and no-nos of mapping. It's also worth playing a lot of maps by your favorite authors and examining what they do, soaking in their styles and looking at how they might have done certain things during the creation process. Imitation is far easier than trying to come up with something entirely of your own.

If you know you have the talent, the time and the creative energy, making a megawad can be an extremely fun, challenging and rewarding exercise. For those who aren't aware, Jenesis was never intended to be good - its working title was "Generix" and it was going to be my attempt at a series of short, probably boring maps, just to warm to the traditional style of Doom mapping. I'd been a Skullfag for so long that the modern possibilities of the ZDoom engine and the overabundance of new gameplay mechanics available through it had numbed me to what Doom was truly about, plus my only Vanilla ventures up to that point had been unplayable heaps of terrible that I'd made in DeePsea, of all ungodly things. Under a much more limited mapping format, I found it a lot easier to create things I considered good, and finish them quickly. It was insightful, educational, and at times frustrating to undertake a feat like Jenesis and create a megawad of my own, and I'm very glad I did it.

Spoiler

I might try it again some day. You never know. :P

Although I guess the thing that's most important in how it came to be in the first place was that I had to fail a lot beforehand. There were many unfinished maps, drafts that never came to be, concepts that fell wildly short of the mark when I attempted to realize them, and a whole host of other failures I patiently endured - importantly, on my own, without really seeking the assurance of others that I was doing just fine and I should do more stuff like x. During that time of constant practice and betterment, I was able to see gradual improvements and evolutions in my approach here and there, and hence Jenesis features quite a few maps that are now close to a decade old (MAP04, MAP05, and MAP06 in particular), but it was definitely quite a while before I was able to look at my work and say to myself that I was creating stuff that was of a suitable, releaseable quality. Very few people are talented right out of the box, as it were (unless they're Mechadon or Ribbiks, but then those guys are robots) - and personal improvement and an objective viewpoint on the quality of your output compared to the norm should always be sought.

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I tend to dislike (and ignore) two subgenres: one-man megawads (1MM) and contemporary community projects (CCP). With 1MM the problem is that every mapper has some sort of annoying mapping habit, and if it gets repeated 32 times, it's getting super-annoying. Example: Z86's inclination to hide an important weapon in a secret, there's like 15 hidden SSG in his HellBound (and kmxexii complained about MM2 which had only 2 (MAP22 doesn't count)). With CCP's the problem are some artificial rules which I fail to understand. Example: The way someone did projects. Awesome mappers build maps 20 times worse than they could just because they want to imitate Sandy Petersen and John Romero. What a waste of talent!

So for me, two-people or three-people megawads strike the balance and are acceptable. I still prefare singles or short episodes :)

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The solution would seem to be to release a bunch of individual maps as you make them, then, once you have enough maps, polish them up and throw them into a megawad.

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Jimmy said:

Spoiler

I might try it again some day. You never know. :P


I am taking this to mean that you are up to something. Which is a good thing. :)

Salt-Man Z said:

The solution would seem to be to release a bunch of individual maps as you make them, then, once you have enough maps, polish them up and throw them into a megawad.


Memfis. Take notes.

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I agree that most one-man megawads suffer from being megawads. The majority of authors don't really have enough good ideas for 32 maps, so they end up making subpar areas and whole maps that feel like fillers or rehashes of old ideas, and so the whole thing falls apart, becomes inconsistent and not so great overall.

But in my eyes some people managed to avoid this, Nathan Lineback with his Marswar is one example. I see it as a very solid consistent work with no ups and downs, with every single map "having the right" to be there and not being a mere filler. Very subjective of course and I guess it helps in this case that the wad is somewhat freaky and not entirely serious, so I might judge its consistency differently from other wads. But in any case, it works!

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vdgg said:

So for me, two-people or three-people megawads strike the balance and are acceptable.


I agree. Having one or two other people to bounce ideas off of and then have them add their ideas to/edit your maps seems to keep burnout from happening. A project leader on a Community-based megawad should also fill this function of an editor, but project leaders suffer from burnout too. The other problem with a community project is consistency. Everyone has a different mapping style so you end up with some great maps, some good maps, a lot of okay maps and some that are a mess. Fine. That happens. It happened in Doom and Doom2. I'm talking about the little things. Using different textures for doors and lifts from map to map. In some maps blood is damaging, in others it isn't. In some maps you can walk through a column of falling liquid, in others you can't. It's the project leader's job to make the "world" consistent, but again, real life and burnout. A Hollywood producer once said "Audiences will accept a big lie, but a small inconsistency they won't forgive." Dinosaurs cloned from fossilized blood from an ancient mosquito in amber? Sure, sounds reasonable. But that kid would have fried on the fence big-time.

The One-man megawads that seen to work best are when the author takes his time, probably years, to finish. It lets him step away from the project for a while and come up with a fresh perspective and new ideas. All of this really only works, however, if the project is secret. Announcing it and posting updates puts a pressure on the project - an artificial need to finish it in order not to disappoint the community.

I'm remembering a scrapped Doom episode project from a few years ago. I found the individually released maps and put it together to see what it looked like. A few maps were good, a few were a bit linear and under-designed. The episode just didn't feel right or consistent. It's okay not to finish a project. Release the maps individually, or hold on to all of it until fresh people/ideas move it along, or scrap the project and re-use the pieces for some future project. No one will judge you too harshly.

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I prefer shorter episodes. Megawads very rarely keep me engaged throughout because they are either too uneven (most community projects) or start to feel redundant sooner or later.

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Mapper-wise, it's easily decided that making a single map is a way less exhausting task than keeping up enthusiasm and determination for a time span from one up to six or seven years to make a mapset reaching the "Glorious Holy Number of Thirty-Two" (the rather ironic expression of Gez). It's been always our problem and displeasure along with one of my close fellow mappers, Katamori: none of us has either that kind of struggle and endurance or self-satisfaction over their maps (like Erik Alm for example) to even finish one single work which has already been started several years ago. Instead, we have lotsa open projects and unkept promises, many of which are concerning community projects. It's like a circle of the devil, each time getting wider and wider.

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I agree with the above opinions:

  • One man megawads are a non-ideal choice, because specifics of the mapper's style might become repetitive or simply unbearable to the player, he might not be kept interested for the whole time. Also of course, it's an exhaustive work for the mapper.
  • "Directed" community projects are a non-ideal choice, because the rules (intented to set the right direction) can limit the mappers and lead into a less good / varied / interesting output than it could have been. Also, it brings some unpleasant worries to the project leader. Heh.
  • Individual maps are a non-ideal choice, because few people give them an attention, at least to give a basic feedback to the creator (which he certainly wants and needs). On the other hand, they're the easiest to make. So if the mapper works effectively, the output is the fastest and most effective, which is definitely good.
My conclusion is, types of wads that have the highest potential to be "effectively" fun (I can't express it better), are:
  • Megawads co-authored by several people.
  • Community projects that are in fact collections of maps, connected by one (simple) idea or rule.
  • Short episodes, ranging from 3 to 10 maps, made by one mapper.
The first two cases have an advantage of effectivizing the work by dividing it among more people. The player will be offered a variety, as well as some kind of rough unification. The last case is the preferable way for individual mappers to present themselves. Smaller sized mapsets are easier to manage for the mapper, the player is more likely to notice and try out the mapset, and less likely to lose interest during his playthrough.

That's just how I see things nowadays. :)

Of course, I don't believe that this structuring pseudo-system is more important than the quality and nature of the content itself. Quality is really significantly more important than how the maps are sorted and put together.

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In theory I agree with the arguments against one-man megawads, I see the logic behind them anyhow. However OMMs make up some of my favourite mapsets. I like when a series of maps have a unifying theme, cohesive progression, etc., and that's really hard to do in any other process.

I think shorter episodes, 10-15 maps, often have the greatest chance to work out the best. Doesn't fatigue the mapper as much, doesn't tire the player out either, but still enough room to establish a solid progression.

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Personally, I'm beginning to find that the original Doom 1 episode length of 8-9 maps is about perfect for forestalling player fatigue.

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Salt-Man Z said:

Personally, I'm beginning to find that the original Doom 1 episode length of 8-9 maps is about perfect for forestalling player fatigue.

I personally set the optimal borderline for a bearable map count even lower. It depends on the particular maps, and their nature. But specially for simple concepts that might get repetitive, I prefer shortness of about 5 or 6 maps at maximum.

Let's take Innocence by jazzmaster9 as an example - in my opinion, that's exactly what I was talking about in the previous sentence. The maps are nice in their simplicity, but imagine playing a full megawad of the likes, or perhaps just a 9 level episode. I find the scale of 5+1 maps very appropriate to keep it fun for the player while providing a decent amount of content. You know, the wad wasn't giving an impression that the style will evolve to keep an impressiveness throughout more maps, instead it looked like jazzmaster9 would only reuse some more ideas / characteristics of his previous maps.

Then there's pcorf's Doomed Space Wars project. It's going to grow bigger than 5 maps, but in my opinion it could have already stopped - with a good final map to close it. I felt I had already got enough of the style in those long maps. Too much of it would lead to a tedium, even though the quality and atmosphere are very good.

Just two examples of recent mapsets to explain my view, I understand that other people might see it differently, even in the cases of these particular wads.

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Salt-Man Z said:

Personally, I'm beginning to find that the original Doom 1 episode length of 8-9 maps is about perfect for forestalling player fatigue.

I agree completely.

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My views tend to echo those of several other commenters.

For me, personally, I can say without any hesitation whatever, that I will never make a complete Doom 2 megawad. The need to keep making maps harder and harder throughout a 32-map set will lead to exhausting playtesting, for one thing, that takes a tremendous amount of time. Then there's the issue that people like new music, and finding 32 worthwhile tracks is a complete headache for me, requiring endless hours wading through raw monkeyshit to find a few pearls in a bubbling lake of stinky diarrhea. No thanks! Further, I tend to think my style will become boring to most players, including myself, over that long of a stretch. OTOH, I believe I've done enough mapping to turn out "solid" maps without much trouble. They will feature solid action and solid layout and solid appearance, but won't inspire you to say, "Wow, cool!" In other words, decent "filler" maps. Not offensively bad, but not remarkable, either. So when it comes to Doom 2, I'll probably never do more than a 10-map set. This would allow me to keep a theme going to the point where it doesn't quite wear out its welcome.

By contrast, I'm really more of an Ultimate Doom loyalist, so I plan to make a megawad out of individually-released episodes. I'll do each episode as a stand-alone piece, and then put the whole thing together, at some as-yet unseen point in the future. And it's not progressing in the usual way, as I have E1 finished and am currently working on and off with E4.

Anyway, that's what works for me. BTW, I do enjoy playing single maps quite a bit, and short episodes. I only play megawads when they come up in the Megawad Club, because otherwise I never make time for them. For me as a player, I prefer episodes of 3 - 6 maps in Doom 2, and 9 in Ultimate Doom.

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I have to agree with the preference of a 9 level episode over a megawad. Many megawads I feel are lackluster in places as the more maps, the more the quality differentiates between good and bad, whereas with a single map (or a much shorter set of levels in comparison with a full 32 level megawad) level designers have a lot less levels to work with, and I think that many people who create full length megawads get tired with perfecting each and every single fucking map that when compared with those who work on a smaller set of levels. Hence why the quality is very much different between the two [/obvious]. I think the only one man megawad I played which kept up a great level of consistency (apart from the details in a handful of maps) was Needs More Detail Ultimate. EDIT: I am talking about one man projects in case anyone thought I meant megawads in general.

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+1 for the smaller 9 map episode length.

Have there been any releases where 3(or 4) authors each contribute a specific episode? Instead of a mix of authors across all episodes.

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traversd said:

+1 for the smaller 9 map episode length.

Have there been any releases where 3(or 4) authors each contribute a specific episode? Instead of a mix of authors across all episodes.

I've been toying around with an idea like this but haven't really found anybody to spitball the idea with - a split release, for lack of a better term. 3 mappers each have their own episode with any number of connecting ideas or styles that they wish to put on the same .wad, then that wad is pushed out as a single release.

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mouldy said:

the best kind of wads are the ones I enjoy playing


Can't argue with that. ;)

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currently playing through Vile Flesh again, I've noticed that indeed, there are habits that the lone author has, like linear progression and increasing length of maps. I prefer megawads with multiple authors for fresher variety of length and gameplay. or better, episodes, as pretty much everyone else seems to say, so I don't get too bored too quick.

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I'm more inclined to play and repeat-play a wad of at least 6 or 7 maps, probably because I can remember it exists, while single maps often go in one eyeball and out the other, unless they are very unusual. And if I like a mapset a lot, I want more maps in the same set. I don't get especially bored with a 1-author-megawad's habits, unless they're something stupidly obnoxious, tho a habit like the aforementioned hidden-SSG might change how I play, ie. instead of killing first, I'd hunt secrets first.

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The key quality that you should want to possess as a level designer - 1MM or no - is being able to diversify the content of your project through proper execution of different ideas. Ideas that have an impact on the way you play the game. This doesn't mean that you need to change the way you shape architecture with every level to hold the player's interest, or meddle with other aspects of geometry. On the contrary, even if these aspects don't change with the new ideas it would likely not have an impact on how long I'm willing to persist with 32 levels.

If you have the ideas and you continually strive to evolve the theme, atmosphere, or both (and maintain quality music!), then I'll stick with it to the end, regardless of whatever other aspects of design are repetitive.

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The Iwads were made by multiple authors.

I would think the ideal single person project would be around 5 to 10 maps. You could also make individual episodes that could be compiled later if you wanted, like Jenesis (?) and Base Ganymede did.

Of course, if you want to make a 32 map magnum opus, I can't stop you.

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I think megawads work better when there's more than one person at it, but there are exceptions, for example, Epic 2.

And even if the maps are large, intricate, etc., you can still make it work. Like, Eternal Doom.

It all depends on the talent/skills of the people involved.

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Creating a megawad is fun.
Especially if it's with a team.

I'll try to get into creating a generic megawad akin to the original Doom levels with the standard Techbase-Hellbase-Hell progression. Maybe do it with a team.

Megawads are too much (sometimes), Single Levels are to little, 9-level episode packs are just right.

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Whipped up Zone 300 over a few months creating 31 new maps of 300 linedefs, finishing off 1 uncompleted map (MAP32) and composed an entire soundtrack of music. It was an endurance speed-mapping and speed-composing event.

But WOS took 3 years to make and lots of patience. Twilight Zone took 16 months (late 1996 to early 1998), Twilight Zone 2 Final Dreams from Feb 1998 to August 1999.

Doomed Space Wars is an 11 level Zdoom (in Hexen format for Doom 2) episode in progress. Worked started in Jan 2014 and as of June 2014 the first 4 levels (all very large levels) are complete plus the first of 2 secret levels.

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