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Memfis

Unwanted preknowledge?

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I was thinking, is it possible to make a map that would get harder on the second playthrough due to the player learning something about it?

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That's pretty easy. Make a map in the MAP15 or MAP31 slot where the map is mostly easy but then you find out about the secret exit, and to get to that secret exit, you have to go through a huge, well-hidden section where the map turns into a slaughter map.

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After thinking about it three times (all within 10 seconds), I think it's safe to say that the answer is no.

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I think it'd only be possible with some heavy scripting. Randomize enough stuff (what passages are open, where weapons are found, places of monster ambush) that someone who played the map once and doesn't know about the random nature will go "haha, I remember there's a supershotgun in the next room so I should dodge the arachnotrons for now, grab the weapon, and come back to hunt them down with something better than a peashooter" and instead of a weapon he finds a cyberdemon.

Things like that.

Even then, on the third playthrough, he'd know about the randomness and wouldn't be much at a disadvantage compared to playing blind. After enough playthroughs, he'd know the map enough to gain some advantage again. Like "in that room I'll find either a rocket launcher or a trio of cacodemon, but if I go through this corridor first I'm guaranteed to find a few shotgun guys or chaingun guys so I'll have a weapon to handle the cacos if they show up".

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Hard optional areas difficult to find that don't really earn you that much reward for beating and your goal would be maxing the map, I guess. Ribbiks earns the spotlight for that.

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Its possible if you make it so that the easy way to play the map is only apparent after playing it, then have mechanisms that punish the player if they take that easy option. I sometimes do this in my maps where if you use foreknowledge to skip difficult parts, any monsters you left behind will ambush you later, or if you finish fights too quickly more enemies will come. You can also make things harder if players try to make battles easier by camping, though in either case you can't really guarantee that the player used foreknowledge and didn't just stumble on those tactics.

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Design the map with multiple paths, and penalize the player for choosing the "correct" ones the first time by teleporting in many more monsters that wouldn't have been activated otherwise.

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If your goals change, like if you want to simply reach the exit the first run and try to max it on the second then yeah there are ways (because those goals are inherently different in difficulty) NRFTLs MAP01 has exponentially more monsters after you find the secrets for example.

something along those lines could use crushers or something to kill the monsters in the traps for taking the most direct route instead of exploring optional areas. But what this map is calling for is for the player to accidentally stumble into the easiest, most effective solution, and for whatever reason make that particular solution difficult to perform on purpose. All I can think of is maybe a a misaligned texture that tempts the player into thinking its a secret door, but its actually a switch linedef action that triggers the aforementioned crushers, so on second run, seeing as the wall texture wasn't actually a secret, the player may choose not to press it the second time, and let the monsters in the trap live and catch the player unsuspectedly at an unprecedented moment.

idk if that's very good level design though.

I'd think learning how to beat the map in its current state is enough to learn to guarantee the map wont be harder to complete without doing anything too differently than the first solution he found.

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A fascinating topic, though I admit I can't think of an example. Your query gets to the core of the problem of giving a map (or any videogame for that matter) "replayability". How can you make a player want to play a second or third time if they've seen everything already?

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Toxie Rocks said:

Your query gets to the core of the problem of giving a map (or any videogame for that matter) "replayability". How can you make a player want to play a second or third time if they've seen everything already?

In fact, that's not at all rare in Doom mapping, trying to achieve replayability. Of course, there are various ways to do so. Among other things, enjoyable free movement in the map, nonlinear progression and hard difficulty usually help it. The map should preferably have good-enough visuals to keep player's interest, too. Replayability is considered the feature of the best maps, it distinguishes better maps from the worse ones (in majority of cases).

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Ling's approach or a similar variant sounds plausible for sure. Something like sneakily "reveal" to the player an obvious alternative route after it's too late for them to have taken it (via strategic use of windows to previous areas or somesuch), then punish them for actually trying it the second time through. :P

Seems somewhat cheesy though; I do wonder if it's possible to cause a scenario where the player over-thinks and screws him/herself over, but hell if I know how to make such a thing reliably happen. :P

[EDIT] Re-reading Gez's post, though, a map that makes subtle random changes like that is a very cool idea that technically fits the bill (probably better, TBH). That's super-tempting to try now.

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Gez said:

I think it'd only be possible with some heavy scripting. Randomize enough stuff (...)

I think randomization is the way to go, too. This can also be done without scripts for Boom mappers, with invisible triggers that will activate depending on how player and monsters move, shot, use, etc.

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Your query gets to the core of the problem of giving a map (or any videogame for that matter) "replayability". How can you make a player want to play a second or third time if they've seen everything already?


I feel this is mostly a solved problem, and that most big name studios avoid the solution on purpose. Planned obsolescence makes you want to buy the next game next year.

All you have to do is to make the game fun to play, rather than only fun to see. i.e. you'd never think "well I've seen all the pieces on the board, there's no point in ever playing Chess again". When a game is interesting mechanically, the backdrop ceases to be all there is to it.

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^ well, Doom's movement rules and weapons balance add up to some of the most naturally blissful slices of gaming I've ever encountered, but that doesn't mean someone's going to want to play YOUR MAP twice given the amount of levels out there.

a cool exercise in pseudo-randomization would be to have a big sandbox-y "find all three keys and leave" type arrangement where the first thing Doomguy does is descend a mountain, with no way to get back on top, and the route he takes down it configures certain key platforms to be accessible and others to be hidden forever.

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Is no-one going to suggest re-releasing the map, after making it more punishing? :V

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I think I know a (somewhat working) way that would work even on vanilla if your map design is suitable. Trick is to make some secret areas visible when player can't reach them). I.e. after player dropped down some platform he will see a window where he can clearly see a BFG peeking out. Next time (if he'll remember the map of course) he will explore map more thoroughly to pick up BFG while crossing trigger changing his pathway/teleporting more monsters/etc.

Actually after rereading the thread I understand this is the same thing Xaser suggested but I after all I don't think with such design it's possible that player screws himself over.

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One thing you could do that might work would be to create "staggered" traps like that hallway in Alien Vendetta map 04. Make a trap that's likely to kill a first-time player and has an almost-but-not-quite-obvious escape point, and make that escape point spring an even more vicious trap.

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I realized that this part of the OP question:

Memfis said in the OP:
due to the player learning something about it

is devaluating most of the answers in this thread. Not devaluating as making useless, there are nifty ideas, but they're not entirely to the point. Memfis meant if it was possible to disadvantage the player who knows exactly what's going to happen, compared to a completely unknowing one.

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It happened to me, when I played Twilight Zone II MAP22 the second time.

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scifista42 said:

Memfis meant if it was possible to disadvantage the player who knows exactly what's going to happen, compared to a completely unknowing one.

I can't see a way that you could actually make something harder for a player with full knowledge than one with no knowledge. Because part of the full knowledge would be how it is being made harder, and the player could change their strategy to negate it. Like... you could do something to make the player *choose* to make it harder on themselves with their knowledge, but that's not really the same.

You might say that's part of the point of Achievements, really - how do you create replay value and increased challenge for a player that's beaten a game? Give them difficult things to accomplish in exchange for a gold star.

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I think besides what I mentioned it's completely impossible. You can do a FDA of single map only once, after all.

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scifista42 said:

In fact, that's not at all rare in Doom mapping, trying to achieve replayability. Of course, there are various ways to do so. Among other things, enjoyable free movement in the map, nonlinear progression and hard difficulty usually help it. The map should preferably have good-enough visuals to keep player's interest, too. Replayability is considered the feature of the best maps, it distinguishes better maps from the worse ones (in majority of cases).


I agree with what you're saying. My point wasn't that it's impossible to or really rare for a mapper to achieve replayability. I just see it as the most difficult aspect to peg down. Building a beautiful vista or setting up a challenging battle is a straightforward (though not easy thing). Replay value is harder to define, for an individual map at least. Everyone on this board replays and will continue to replay Doom for reasons we don't need to go over here.

It is also the case that a mapper may decide to make a great one-time experience with no concern for if players will play a second time, though this is getting far from the OP, speaking of...

Unfortunately I can't think of any knowledge that a player could have about a map that would make it harder. Maybe if there was a really terrifying moment that was a complete surprise. The first time through the player wouldn't know it was coming, but the second time through the player would be so tense in anticipation that it would mess with their playing skills. Similarly, a map that was part of a storyline that ended with a beloved character dying would have the player sobbing so hard through the second playthrough that they couldn't shoot straight.

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There would really have to be some sort of brainwashing to give the player a learning disability or something. Theres really no way anything that is constant (as opposed to studying something that is constantly changing, like weather for example) where the application of what you learn directly from it can be used against you unless the player is making incorrect resolutions about it. This is true for pretty much anything. The way things are remotely constant in doom is the basis of how doom demo recording works, in that if the player makes the exact precise movements and actions, the game play will resemble the exact sane thing every time.

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Randomisation. Let's say you have a T-junction coming up. You port an imp to either the left- or righthanded side. A player who does this for the first time will be cautious and discover the imp to his eg right. The second time he knows that the imp is to his right and won't pay attention to the lefthand corner. Except this time the imp might now be to his left and he'll get burned.

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Maybe you could utilize tag 666 and 667 bugs:

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Variant 1
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On the first run, you throw the player into fatso or arachnotron arena and give him/her only easy-to-find plasmagun. At the same time, you should make sure he/she is low on ammo, except cells. This way, he/she has to kill fatsos/arachnotrons one-by-one with the plasmagun. Inside the arena, you prepare some not-too-easy-to-find room, but one which the player has to find eventually in order to progress in the map (with a key inside, for example). Along with the key, you also place BFG.

Now, on the second run, the player will run straight for the BFG and start blasting fatsos/arachnotrons en masse. With their clever placement (2 or 3 of them bunched in small cages, for example), you can increase the probability that the player will kill the last two of them at once, thus triggering the 666/667 bug. Some easy path thus will become inaccessible and the player will have to take a harder one.

To increase the probability of the bug happening, you can make two separate arenas, one with fatsos and the other with arachnotrons. Only non-bugged finish of both arenas will open the easy path.

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Variant 2
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You make an arena in which various monsters (except fatsos and arachnotrons) snipe the player. The monsters can be crushed, but it is not obvious to the player. In a monster closet outside playable areas, there will be 2 fatsos or 2 arachnotrons, also prepared to be crushed. However, there also will be teleport linedefs behind a tall lowerable wall, which will allow to teleport them into playable areas.

Now, similar to above, you will prepare a not-so-easy-to-find room, which will contain switch to start all the crushers. On the first run, the player will kill the monsters with weapons, because he/she doesn't know the monsters can be crushed. That will take time... enough time for the wall in the monster closet to lower completely, so the fatsos/arachnotrons can escape from the crushers. Then they will be killed one-by-one by the player (which can be ensured by consecutive timing of several walls).

On the second run, the player will run straight into the hidden room and turn on the crushers. Because not enough time has elapsed, the fatsos/arachnotrons will be crushed and die at once, which will trigger the 666/667 bug. Like above, that will in turn make some easy path inacessible.

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Of course, the same effect can be achieved via scripting. Generally, when the player gets somewhere sooner than he/she would without any preknowledge, he/she will be punished. The real problem is, that some player are better at dispatching monsters (or jumping puzzles or whatever) than others, which could easily break the idea...

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Think the simplest way to do this would be to have something like a floor trap in the middle of a corridor that drops the player into lava, with a slightly awkward way to get back out. The trap can be avoided by skirting around the edge, and there is no obvious advantage to triggering the trap, but if it isn't triggered then extra shit happens later. Of course as with any suggestions for this, the premise is poteentially messed up by players who save, as they are effectively playing parts of the map again if they die (or just choose to redo bits with pointless bastard floor traps).

In a related concept, you could make maps more difficult if players pick up less health kits, since that would be a sign that they have had practice with the map (or are just better players).

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I'm so happy to see this discussion. I was beginning to think I was the only person who doesn't feel that map memorization is a desirable element of game play. The emphasis on memorization and rehearsal is the reason I've largely fallen out of love with the NES and Genesis libraries.

It's as simple as having two potential scenarios requiring more-or-less mutually exclusive strategies, which the player must choose before the actual scenario is known.

I really take no pleasure in watching UV/Max runs. Of course you blew that chaingunguy away before he fired on you. You knew when and where he was going to pop out. That bores me.

I agree that the OP's proposition is logically impossible. Knowledge is always power. I wish more game designers considered this fact and made knowledge a more precious and unreliable thing.

I think the best one can do is to reduce the power of preknowledge.

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I can only think of a simple way to try it, but I'm not sure.

If you want random maps, you could start with some diverging pathways and further down these pathways extra triggers and switches affect not only the path you are on but another path in a way off part of the level...there would need to be a few different pathways I think.

One example could be that you go down a corridor and there are two ways to go...you go left and you fight off a couple of imps and you're on your way, you carry on down a corridor and encounter a platforming chasm with no enemies on it...you go right and you miss those imps...but a linedef triggers some enemies that stand on the platforming chasm to catch you out.

This is just a simple example, and can be figured out by players...but if you add in more pathways, and more triggers that affect different areas, it could give the impression of randomness.

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