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Breezeep

Slaughter map making tips?

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What are some tips and trick of making a slaughter style map (like in sunder, Combat shock, stardate, etc.)

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Our revenants shall blot out the sky

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ho boy, this is something I could ramble about for quite some time :D

First thing to note that despite being a relatively niche genre of doom-mapping (perhaps increasingly popular? idk, I don't have a very good historical context of doom-trends) there are a variety of slaughter flavors that players might have varying degrees of fondness for. I tend to bin them into a few categories:

- old-school: think HR and it's brethren. cramped, more monsters than seem appropriate for a given space, spacious arenas are a rarity, the maps overall seem like "normal" layouts, just with way more shit in them. Mob placement is often campable if you really want to, horde magnitude can border on tedious. AVs seem to be used more for some reason, often perched. iirc SF11 had a few maps that gave me this vibe as well.

- puzzle: think ggg or some ToD maps, phmlspd (or chillax, even), seemingly insurmountable until a decent strategy or specific course of action is ironed out. Possibly unintuitive, possibly gimmicky, usually rewarding.

- gauntlet: this seems to be a prevalent style now, usually arena set-pieces are spread out in either linear or nonlinear layouts. A majority of the stuff I've released is like this I think.

- chaos chaos chaos: think BFG spam maps (ToD has many of these that are great), or anything by armouredblood. Basically unapologetic slaughter, hordes of enemies pack every room and traps might unleash them by the hundreds. megaspheres and cell ammo usually aplenty.


So whatever best-principles you choose to abide by may vary depending on what you're trying to go for, I can mainly offer advice on styles similar to my own.


On a side note the word itself seems to get used more often as a descriptor of gameplay style (e.g. how monsters are presented to player) than an explicit indicator of enemy magnitude/density, I've had encounters with like 8 monsters labeled as "slaughterish", and I can't really disagree because the setup jived with what players expect from the word. So don't feel obliged to stuff your map with thousands of mobs or anything.





Anyways, take any tips and whatnot with a grain of salt, a whole lot of this is personal preference, but here are some various thoughts I've accrued on slaughtermapping:


- if you're designing an arena, have a clear idea of monster composition ahead of time. Mobs of note are:
-- cyb: will they be on the ground infighting (will it be up to the player to coerce the infighting?), or will they be perched to put on constant pressure?
-- av: where is the cover? where is it's LoS? what areas do I want the player to duck in and out of?
-- hitscanners (mostly cg, MM): similar to AVs wrt LoS, prime infighters: they facilitate cool interplay with other mobs acting as meat shields.
-- PEs: much like AVs used on the ground, PEs are pretty much a priority target. If you have PEs unleashed on one end, and other mobs on another, you can pretty much force the player to deal with the PEs, allowing time for the other pieces of the encounter to begin swarming the player

- personally, I tend to have groups of the same monster come from a specific location, leaving it up to the player to maneuver and start infighting. This tends to work, but don't be afraid to get some monster soups rolling! Think the bfg room in c-shock map02, loads of mixed baddies that teleport in and basically instantly start killing eachother, but it's still a blast.

- if you find a spot that's too easy to camp, consider adding some damaging floors or perched AVs nearby to deny refuge there until the rest of the mobs have been adequately dealt with.

- Experiment with monsters streaming in from the perimeters of an area, anything that staves off trivial circle-strafing is a good thing in my book.

- put ammo somewhere that requires you to out-maneuver some baddies. I abuse this quite often. putting crucial cells or rockets behind a group of mobs forces you to deal with their presence, dance around them a bit, before being able to take them out. To me that's always more fun than simply coming into a room "prepared" and blasting them as soon as they leave the gate.

- basic tenets of good map design still apply:
-- attack the player from different angles/heights. Having your back to a wall and holding mouse1 is boring, Add some ledges, pits, obstacles, etc. Bonus points for filling these ledges/pits with projectile slinging enemies. height variation god damnit!
-- pillars! cover is good, cover breaks up monster pathing and LoS. Use pillars and/or other blocking structures
-- reward aggression: allow players to activate multiple or subsequent encounters earlier than you might expect, the additional infighting and whatnot will save them both ammo and time if they're able to survive the chaos.
-- give the player a basic idea of what's going to happen, hint at where enemies might come from, where areas of interest might be, before throwing them into the fray. FDA recorders and clinically insane players who refuse to play with saves will appreciate not being mercilessly raped without warning. Unless that's the sort of aura you want your map to give off, oppressive, unforgiving, there's a time and a place for that too.

Pitfalls:

- circle-strafe fights. Dear lord! This is my biggest grievance with most novice slaughtermaps. If your fight can be instantly rendered harmless by circling the mobs, then it has failed. No monster is threatening given enough space

- similarly, it's sometimes underwhelming if the optimal strategy to a fight is "activate then run away like a bitch. proceed to camp mobs from the hallway outside". For example, hot damn do I love death-destiny/darkwave maps, but it's often disappointing that cowardly tactics are so reliable. There's a whole discussion Archi linked to about locking the player into a room, I prefer to try and do that more elegantly than closing bars or a door behind them, think sawtooths: one-way pits, lifts, etc, feels more organic to me, and lets the player interact more directly with the height variation in a map.

- tedium. a common complaint is that a lot of slaughter fights are front-loaded. flurry of shit, then 10 minutes of circling around firing rockets at 500 barons. Some ways to work around this: keep monster counts moderate and/or supply lots of cells and/or setup lots of infighting (preferably with cybs who can accelerate the process greatly). If a monster isn't threatening in some capacity, don't place it.

- slowly lowering bars. Some doomers are better and/or less patient than you might be while playtesting, if you insist on locking the player into a space with bars, allow them to exit fairly quickly. In lieu of timed doors or slow-lower bars I'm beginning to prefer switch exits. Put switches that let the player out of a room in places that are normally too dangerous to get to while the encounter is in full force. That way, once it's safe to exit, they can do so quickly, instead of finally working up the nerve to hit a switch (which may have very well unleased more mobs, what do they know?) and then having to wait for the exit to reveal itself.





I missed the memo that I was supposed to reply sarcastically, so sorry for the wall of text.

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-first think off a challenge, then build all parts of the architecture only to serve the intended challenge, then tweak it several times to "effectivize" the challenge and the architecture, then start focusing on visuals (remember, gameplay is above all)
-don't hesitate to be a sadist - convince yourself that there's never enough challenge
-provide wide-enough space to maneuver (always >128 units), but restricted enough to be challenging
-include fresh ideas to give away weapons, set up an encounter etc.

EDIT: Oh Ribbiks! Maybe I should have kept silence, because the master has already spoken. I'm not even a slaughterplayer myself.

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(TL:DR? start at fourth paragraph. beginning is kinda introductory stuff)

I don't really have any background of slaughter-maps to show for myself, so you could take my philosophies with a grain of salt. But I've looked into it a lot, spoke to many slaughter mappers directly, and have rectified a lot of my own misunderstandings about slaughter-mapping.

In many circumstances, Doom mapping is basically finding a balance between two extremes, gameplay, and visuals. Neither are mutually exclusive, can complement each other well, but require different mindsets to really focus on each.

Making a slaughtermap generally puts forth much more focus on gameplay than visuals. With visuals, you can generally look at someone's map in an editor, make observations while playing, or even simply look at screenshots to get an eye for what a good map will look like. That's because usually, Doom's visual elements in a map are fixed. At least, aside from maps that change light values, textures, or transform geometry. Many maps don't do this because it doesn't achieve much versus the amount of labor involved with getting it right.

Gameplay is much more sensitive, because it is varying in that the relationship between the player and the opposing monsters isn't always predictable, and can't be read directly by looking at a map in an editor. Many things can change the circumstances of how a player behaves, such as what weapons he's carrying, how much ammo he has for those weapons, what kind of health and armor he has, etc. These factors are very dynamic and conduct how the player evaluates his choices. It is possible to control a map to a degree where he doesn't get any choices, but that ties into extreme linearity which is generally a bad thing.

In terms of learning how to design a map with gameplay in mind, it really is best explored with rigorous playtesting, which in turn means you will probably need to be a damn good player. In many cases, you might have to learn to use Doom Builder (or whatever map editor you use) as a canvass to test gameplay hypotheses. Using the editor like a sandbox to explore the infighting relationship between monsters, the challenge induced or reduced in a particular enemy encounter when items are given to or withheld from the player, to pinpoint a particular formula of exciting, challenging, and adrenaline-rushing gameplay created around the circumstances you provided, and then later developing a slaughtermap around those elements. Given the nature of the sensitivity of gameplay to visuals, it's much like working backwards to turn a visually appealing map into a gameplay-oriented one.

In general, from a gameplay perspective, monsters usually appear in three different states. The most basic being walking towards the player, where the monsters are generally at level with the player, approaching closer and closer. Many monsters in Doom are more dangerous as they get closer to the player, but it also makes them more vulnerable to infighting when monsters are targetting the player with their attacks. The second being turret, sniping where they are at a distance from the player, unable to get closer, by way of an obstacle, be it a height difference, impassible wall, cage, window, etc. Some monsters are more or equally dangerous afar than up close, and can offer a challenge in that they are usually out of the way of infighting monsters, and usually require the player to get close to kill with short range weapons. The third is reserved monsters, meaning monsters that are in a state where they are either invisible or untouchable by the player (usually both) such as in a monster closet trap, a sunken instant-raise floor, or a teleport ambush room, etc.. Where they can be used against the player at a time of the mapper's choosing.

At the most basic level, the best you can do is to play around with the editor, starting every play with IDKFA (or by handing the player a bunch of health, armor, items and ammo at the start) testing each of Doom's monsters in their three basic states, in varying quantities, and finding which types complement each other in different scenarios. Phml told me of a decent rule to go by when trying gauge the difficulty of a situation called "double it or cut it in half"

Say you try putting 8 revenants in a room. There's plenty space to move, your rocket launcher disposes of them pretty quick, it's too easy. Double it. Now youve got 16 revenants in the same room. Now its tricky! They close in on you too fast, making your rocket launcher counterproductive, so soften it but by cutting your new addition in half. Now you've got 12 revenants. Just right! Mathematically you should always be able to find the right balance of difficulty that way. Don't rely entirely on it though, because weapons, armor, health, and space to move are factors in gameplay too, and aren't as easily quantified

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I'll add a tip that I use myself. Make map as hard as possible if you want, but you must be able to finish it without saves and secrets on UV. If you think that some places are too easy, try to make them harder (obviously). This works for all type of maps actually.
Teleports are good, but don't use them too often. It's better to keep enemies on ledges and columns I think.

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Archi said:

Teleports are good, but don't use them too often. It's better to keep enemies on ledges and columns I think.

IMO, it might be acceptable to use teleport ambushes more often if the monsters teleport from (into) recognizable pedestals or such marked places known to the player - but yes, everything has limits, or it becomes annoying. I agree with the quoted statement.

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Don't rely entirely on it though, because weapons, armor, health, and space to move are factors in gameplay too, and aren't as easily quantified


Yeah, to sum things up the 2x or 0.5x rule is just the most mathematically efficient way to do balance changes on a single value when you're shooting in the dark, much like playing the "guess the magic number" game. The key part is to not get hung up on small details too early; start with sweeping changes, then once you're happy with the overall picture, tweak things on a smaller scale.

To give credit where it's due, I heard about it in this Sid Meier article. A good read, you could apply all these concepts to slaughtermaps.

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Phml said:

Sid Meier article. A good read, you could apply all these concepts to slaughtermaps.

I disagree with his rule "One Good Game Is Better Than Two Great Ones" (the rule about inappropriate mixing genres). Doom (sort of) combines action with horror and exploration, and it's so great for it! But well, you said slaughtermaps. Slaughtermaps are action oriented and slaughterplayers probably want it like that, in the most refined way, so good.

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scifista42 said:

I disagree with his rule "One Good Game Is Better Than Two Great Ones" (the rule about inappropriate mixing genres). Doom (sort of) combines action with horror and exploration, and it's so great for it! But well, you said slaughtermaps. Slaughtermaps are action oriented and slaughterplayers probably want it like that, in the most refined way, so good.


I feel it's not about certain genres being naturally incompatible with others, but specific cases in which development in at least two particular directions comes to the point where you end up with effectively two different games crammed into one rather than one cohesive experience.

In Doom you have adequate amounts of horror, exploration and action so it all fits together. Doom 3 tried to make it more horror-oriented and more story-oriented, and arguably the action and exploration took a hit.

That's not to say you couldn't make a great game which combined exploration, action, horror and a storyline, but it's exponentially harder to do well than a more focused game. The way I read it, he's being practical: while you *could* make a fantastic game, your chances of success are much higher if you just shoot for a good game.

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My only contributions are these two:

1. Don't forget about co-op! Slaughter maps are awesome in co-op, if done correctly. Doors that close behind the player suck in co-op. Drop-in pits are a good way to keep the player in a room. Also, monsters coming in behind the player[s] is a great way to force forward movement!

2. "Slaughter" does not always have to mean barons, revs, and BFGs. Pinkies and imps vs. the shotgun can also be slaughterish. In other words, the plasma, rocket launcher, and BFG are great rewards that don't have to be given at the start. Let the player[s] earn them. Too many maps give everything at the beginning, forcing the author to break out the big guys too early.

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kb1 said:

Doors that close behind the player suck in co-op.

No they don't, as long as there's some way to open them from the front, or some other way to get back in, such as the teleporters in MAP08: Tricks and Traps. Which can also be helpful in single player, if the player's response to your trap is to immediately straferun backwards faster than you thought he could.

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Pinkies and imps vs. the shotgun can also be slaughterish.


Can't say I agree. Examples would help.

Generally speaking I think the maximum amount of time you should spend against low-tier enemies (demon or below) with low-tier weapons (chaingun or below) in a slaughtermap is one fight, one that shouldn't last very long either...

Spicing things up with a few high rank enemies in a pack of low level foes is fine, but there's only so much you can do otherwise. Anything but chaingunners offer little challenge, and hitscanning isn't a very fun kind of challenge. Unless the layout is particularly cramped pinkies and imps don't tend to pose a threat in anything but large numbers, and if they're in large numbers grinding them down with the shotgun is tedious more than anything.

In other words, the plasma, rocket launcher, and BFG are great rewards that don't have to be given at the start. Let the player[s] earn them. Too many maps give everything at the beginning, forcing the author to break out the big guys too early.


Also strongly disagree (I know this is the same point, but I'd like to comment on different parts). IMHO slaughtermaps should not concern themselves with standard classic progression and instead use every tool available to provide the most diverse possible selection of fights.

Perhaps the one exception to this rule would be the BFG, which is so powerful it renders other weapons obsolete provided you have ammo (and takes precedence over the plasma gun no matter what); so you have to decide right away whether you want a map centered around it. But again, BFG only maps are perfectly fine and, if anything, still underrepresented.

I'd go as far as to say it might be a sign something is wrong with your slaughtermap if there *isn't* a high-tier monster you can spot either in the starting room or a few seconds in. Kinda like a reverted time to crate ratio...


Sorry to jump on your advice like this, but I feel it applies to classic maps more than slaughter.

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Foxpup said:

No they don't, as long as there's some way to open them from the front, or some other way to get back in, such as the teleporters in MAP08: Tricks and Traps...

I should have clarified. Here's what sucks: You're playing 2-player co-op. Your buddy runs into a room, and the door closes behind him. And then he dies. Now, you have a broken map, unless you're using a port that allows both players to turn noclip on, run into the room, and then turn noclip off, hopefully without one of you being stuck inside a monster or wall.

Phml said:

Can't say I agree. Examples would help...

...Sorry to jump on your advice like this, but I feel it applies to classic maps more than slaughter.

No problem, Phml. And I do see your point. I know of the maps you describe: Tons of weapons, ammo, and, bad guys, but set up in such a way that it's actually possible to beat, if you're awesome.

I suppose it's my slaughter map description that's off. I do a lot of co-op, and I've always thought of "slaughter map" as a map with tons of monsters that kicks my ass all over the place. An "against all odds"-type situation. A map where my fire finger is hurting at the end. I'm no badass: I must admit that I die plenty!

I tend to prefer maps with lots to kill, but also with a lot of "dynamic range". Balanced, in that beginning fights are against easy monsters, balanced with weak weapons, progressing into more difficult situations, balanced by finding a good weapon. When you start out with everything, the thrill of finding new hardware is lost.

Maybe you're right - that's not really the goal of slaughter maps, in your sense of the word.

Maybe we could use a thread, entitled "What is a slaughter map?" :)

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kb1 said:

I should have clarified. Here's what sucks: You're playing 2-player co-op. Your buddy runs into a room, and the door closes behind him. And then he dies. Now, you have a broken map,

Well, yes, but you mainly have an incompetent map designer. The map was actually broken even before he died, since there's no way for you to get in the room with him to assist him, which defeats the whole purpose of cooperative play. There's simply no excuse for such brain-damaged design, when the solution is so trivial. That sort of thing wouldn't even have been accepted 20 years ago, and it certainly shouldn't be now.

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People aren't required to make their maps coop friendly. I've read the law.

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Don't be afraid to place monsters in impotent positions if there are going to be a lot of them in a single room.

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Foxpup said:

Well, yes, but you mainly have an incompetent map designer. The map was actually broken even before he died, since there's no way for you to get in the room with him to assist him, which defeats the whole purpose of cooperative play. There's simply no excuse for such brain-damaged design, when the solution is so trivial. That sort of thing wouldn't even have been accepted 20 years ago, and it certainly shouldn't be now.

True, but it happens a lot. Because, in single-player mode, it's completely acceptable and workable.
The biggest annoyance is that, a lot of times, the mapper's last step is to just throw in coop starts "just in case", so, there's really no way to know if the map is a coop-friendly map, unless the readme file says "tested extensively with coop".

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Foxpup said:

There's simply no excuse for such brain-damaged design, when the solution is so trivial.


I'm all about coop support, but I can honestly say that I'd take "I didn't have a person to test my map in coop with" as a valid excuse. Sometimes these oversights happen. Even in single player I couldn't tell you how many times I've created switches with no tags or incorrectly tagged sectors, doors without correctly facing linedefs, or teleports without destinations. This stuff happens if you don't test your map, and if you don't have a second player to tell you he's stuck then these things tend to fly off the radar.

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40oz said:

I'm all about coop support, but I can honestly say that I'd take "I didn't have a person to test my map in coop with" as a valid excuse. Sometimes these oversights happen. Even in single player I couldn't tell you how many times I've created switches with no tags or incorrectly tagged sectors, doors without correctly facing linedefs, or teleports without destinations. This stuff happens if you don't test your map, and if you don't have a second player to tell you he's stuck then these things tend to fly off the radar.

Also true. And, there's really no way to truly test coop in single player mode.

But here's a decent substitute:
While SP testing your coop map, after various "trigger points", noclip back to each coop start, turn off noclipping, and see if you can get back to the action. If not, you might have a coop issue.

Back on topic: I might as well ask: What is everyone's definition of a slaughter map? Answers to that question would answer the OP. I always thought it just meant 'insanely hard maps that beat me down', but I now think there's more to it.

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High tier, high monster density is my definition.

"High tier" might seem arbitrary but I feel the qualifier is critical. When you can't force your way through with one rocket hit or one SSG shot, monsters start acting as moving walls and your positioning takes a heightened importance.

I don't think slaughtermaps have to be hard but I seem to be alone or at least in the minority in that.

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kb1 said:

While SP testing your coop map, after various "trigger points", noclip back to each coop start, turn off noclipping, and see if you can get back to the action. If not, you might have a coop issue.

I think a better idea is to play with -solo-net in PrBoom+ (maybe ZDoom has similar features if it's a ZDoom mapset) and let yourself get killed at the start of each new area/encounter. You'll still respawn as if it were a real co-op game, and you can see whether you can make it back to where you were before and if there are any problems along the way.

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