Jump to content
Search In
  • More options...
Find results that contain...
Find results in...
StupidBunny

Instant death traps

Recommended Posts

People hate instant death traps, and I can understand why. Most of the time, they're cheap and unfair, unforgiving in a tactless sort of way. There's a reason why so many mappers follow the (un)spoken convention of always including a means of escaping any slime pit, and why levels with inescapable death traps are usually met with rage.

So my question is, is there ever a time that it is okay to include such a trap? As I see it, the two biggest problems with the worst traps are that they are not obviously so deadly, often just another nukage pit that happens to be inescapable, punishing the player for slight missteps; or else they come late in the level, damning the player to repeat the entire level for no real reason. The inescapable traps at the ends of MAP08 and MAP24 are guilty of both these things. Even id Software fucked that one up.

Unsurprisingly, part of what prompts me to post this aside from pure interest is that the level I'm making now has such a death trap. I usually don't include them, but in this particular case I thought it fit the theme and atmosphere of the level okay. More to the point, I've tried to make it look as ominous and suspicious as possible, it is accessible very early in the level, and access to it will be blocked off as soon as the real yellow key is retrieved. For what it's worth, everything behind that REDWALL1 wall is invisible on the automap, too. Screenshot below:



Picking up the yellow key in there will trigger some floor/ceiling magic that will seal the player in a circle of FIREMAG1 behind which are hidden multiple archviles. It's a nasty trick, but it works real well and I'm sorta reluctant to get rid of it altogether (and making it escapable would defeat its purpose.) I know that it's common for keys to be placed intentionally in ominous suspicious areas, but it's right down the hall from a yellow door so I'm hoping that'll make it even more suspect than usual.

Share this post


Link to post

I'd recommend having some sort of indicator that it's a decoy: possibly an indication on the automap or a slightly off DOORRED2 texture. Failing that, make the trap escapable and use a texture that looks like the yellow key instead of the actual thing. :) With your current setup people would just be expecting a nasty trap that they can still escape, not a completely inescapable one.

Share this post


Link to post

I would go for that key, no question about it. Putting some ominous looking thing in a map, especially if it's a HELL map to begin with lol, won't scare away the player. That's like me putting a "danger" sign near water and expecting people to not act surprised when they discover that the water damages you. Or the author of dodead.wad putting that red sign from e2m6 near a teleporter and expecting me to understand that it will kill me. People don't pay attention to signs, their brain sees them as just design elements, same as columns or whatever, so it doesn't examine them. The funniest illustration of this is Lost Heretic's d2reload map18 FDA, where he runs by the computer console that explains the rules of the map without even attempting to read the text.

Share this post


Link to post

That's true, I guess it's kind of impossible to deter someone altogether from taking a scary-looking route. Anybody experienced with playing Doom will be able to sense danger when they see it, but will still dive in to face it anyway. I guess that's why people hate instant-death traps so much...they go in expecting a good fight, only to discover that the mapper is fighting dirty. I guess exceptions are things like the final level of 1monster.wad for instance, where there's an "agreement" so to speak that certain things will instafrag the player and that that's part of the puzzle. I guess a trap like this would be more reasonable as a trap if there were, say, three similar-looking routes and the non-lethal one was subtly demarcated with a flickering sector or something.

I'll see what other people think, though I kind of like Obsidian's idea of using a fake key and making the trap escapable.

Share this post


Link to post

Guaranteed-death traps are bad. You may think the trap is clever but players will not. You have perfect knowledge of the map; the player has zero knowledge. There's no triumph to be had in fooling the player into something that you purposely designed to kill them. They will not say "good show old chap, you got me good that time." They will say "ugh" and roll their eyes and restart with a negative attitude towards the rest of the map, or else maybe quit playing it entirely.

Share this post


Link to post

I like your idea and I would leave it as it is. Accept most players will die there but if it's right at the start of the map only bed wetters will complain. The bigger issue I have with the setup is max kills but you could either release the archviles later or use a crusher setup.

ThIs said, I have no problems with death pits in general as long as they're reasonably placed.

Share this post


Link to post

As with such topics and the various defenses of instant death traps offered, I still don't see the point in murdering the player, instead of making him take some damage. From the reverse perspective, why is the Doomguy able to survive more than one fireball? Because making mistakes is fun. Health point systems allow for experimentation and flexibility. An instant death trap just kills you. A damaging trap gives you varied results based on your ability to react to the surprise.

Gigantic cliff falls and generally out of bounds scenarios, given obvious signs, perhaps instant death is warranted. Maybe. Possibly. Anything else, hard to see it as more than the mapper having some god complex, either directly with a level built to frustrate the player, or indirectly by putting a particular design vision above player convenience.

Share this post


Link to post
Memfis said:

I would go for that key, no question about it. Putting some ominous looking thing in a map, especially if it's a HELL map to begin with lol, won't scare away the player.

Very true. The ominous decoration around your yellow key trap would be interpreted just as highlighting the key to make it more noticeable.

And key traps usually involve opening monster closets or teleporting in a bunch of hellspawn, i.e. traps that are survivable and that players will trigger deliberately, both to take the key and to get 100% kills.

Share this post


Link to post

Unexpected certain-death traps are bad, bad, bad and bad. Treating the player like: "Hahaha, you've died, I PWN YOU, now reload, my bitch!" clearly doesn't have any positive impact on the game. Phml gave reasons for it in his post above.

IMO, certain-death traps can be used well, but they need very special treatment to make them reasonably expected. These are the options I can think off (I'd say that at least 2 of them should be used at the same time):

  • Place a charismatic and never-seen-before custom texture near them (that should always attract attention), with a distinctly readable sign "DEATH", or CERTAIN DEATH, INSTANT DEATH, DIE HERE or similar.
  • Visibly demonstrate the deadly effect of the trap before the player can actually reach it (perhaps on a monster). Then let him encounter more of these traps, he'll already know.
  • Always make the trap identifiable from a reasonable distance to be able to avoid it.
Well okay, all of these suggested solutions might imply treating the player as a mouse in a maze, but I believe that fairness and comfortability is more important here, when it comes to certain-death traps.

Share this post


Link to post
StupidBunny said:

(and making it escapable would defeat its purpose.)


why?

Share this post


Link to post
40oz said:

why?


He basically wants that particular key to be a decoy: the idea's good, but instakilling the player is a bad way to go about it.

Share this post


Link to post

Well, actually there is a whole video game genre which is all about killing the player in unexpected and "unfair" ways all the time. See masochistic platformers like IWBTG and its countless fan modifications. Some people like these a lot for their creative ways of killing the player. One of my favorites is the fake sticky keys popup that falls on you while you're trying to disable it.

Share this post


Link to post

IWBTG is consistent. From the start you die in one hit. You don't suddenly find a soulsphere powerup in the middle of the game and end up with 200 HPs. You have frequent checkpoints. The game is based around trial and error. It's 2D so you see everything that's happening. Not a perfect game, but instant death tropes certainly work a lot better there than in Doom.

There's video game genres which are all about telling interactive stories. Should standard Doom levels randomly interrupt their regular pace to turn into a text adventure, with custom textures / switches trickery? There's video game genres based around parkour. Should Doom levels include a bunch of 1px wide steps near every wall to simulate climbing?

Various things work in different environments, it doesn't necessarily imply fitting a square peg in a round hole makes sense. There's not much creativity involved in throwing everything but the kitchen sink with little consideration for the context. It's like writing a book by flipping a dictionary and typing random words.

Share this post


Link to post

I don't see the problem with unforgiving death traps -- some warning might be nice, but I take them as I go. In particular, I'm very partial to inescapable pits. If traps are placed well, they can add considerable tension to a level apart from simply shooting everything.

Share this post


Link to post

I remember when adventure games were all the rage. Instant deaths were not particularly popular in that genre either.

You are in a small stone room bereft of any interesting features save a conspicuous looking lever on the north wall.

>PULL LEVER

You pull the lever and are immediately startled by the noise of the only door in the room slamming shut behind you. You then hear a low rumbling noise and, to your horror, notice that the ceiling is slowly lowering. You try to open the door to escape but it just won't budge.

You are slowly and agonisingly crushed to death. You scored 0 out of 300 points. You can (L)oad a previous game, (R)estart the game, or (Q)uit the game.

>Q

Share this post


Link to post
Dave The Daring said:

I remember when adventure games were all the rage. Instant deaths were not particularly popular in that genre either.

You are in a small stone room bereft of any interesting features save a conspicuous looking lever on the north wall.

>PULL LEVER

You pull the lever and are immediately startled by the noise of the only door in the room slamming shut behind you. You then hear a low rumbling noise and, to your horror, notice that the ceiling is slowly lowering. You try to open the door to escape but it just won't budge.

You are slowly and agonisingly crushed to death. You scored 0 out of 300 points. You can (L)oad a previous game, (R)estart the game, or (Q)uit the game.

>Q


Haha, reminds me of an old text game where the starting room described several doors. One of the was octagon and the rest are all the same. If you chose to open the octagon door it was instant death with the message "curiosity kills the cat". Nice.

Share this post


Link to post

Well, my position on this is different from you guys. I don't think instant-death traps are really unfair, unless there are too much of them, or just one such trap in the whole map, only a few steps away from the exit (Like in MAP08)... I think you get it. For example, take MAP19: Darkseed from NDCP2. It has at least some instant-death traps, and for me, they work fine. It all depends on how you implement them, I think.

Perhaps it also has to do with familiarity: as with puzzles, that kind of tricks aren't what the average player expects when they play Doom, so naturally many of them feel the designer is being unfair. Not me. I may be really pissed off for the moment, but I quickly recover and just try to be more cautious next time.

Also, it does makes sense if you think about it: especially in hellish levels, why should the demons give you a lot of options to get out of their traps? Why put the traps there in the first place if it's just a matter of pressing a switch? (this last paragraph is half-joke, half-serious, but I think you get my point).

Share this post


Link to post
Zed said:

Well, my position on this is different from you guys. I don't think instant-death traps are really unfair, unless there are too much of them, or just one such trap in the whole map, only a few steps away from the exit (Like in MAP08)... I think you get it. For example, take MAP19: Darkseed from NDCP2. It has at least some instant-death traps, and for me, they work fine. It all depends on how you implement them, I think.

Perhaps it also has to do with familiarity: as with puzzles, that kind of tricks aren't what the average player expects when they play Doom, so naturally many of them feel the designer is being unfair. Not me. I may be really pissed off for the moment, but I quickly recover and just try to be more cautious next time.

Also, it does makes sense if you think about it: especially in hellish levels, why should the demons give you a lot of options to get out of their traps? Why put the traps there in the first place if it's just a matter of pressing a switch? (this last paragraph is half-joke, half-serious, but I think you get my point).


I do get your point. I get tired of adding steps or teleporters in every lava pool I make. I don't usually place immersion over gameplay but I feel different about that for some reason.

Share this post


Link to post

I agree with what Linguica and Phml said to start.

You will find the odd person that does not mind, apparently because it does not ruin anything in their experience. For the other kinds of players it ruins their experience.

If a fatal pit is completely obvious (such that a 6 year old would stay out) then a fool that goes in should expect to die. A pit of stakes with toxic slime should kill the player. That is not the case here.

There is a key in there, and the player is going to have to go in there. Other level maps will have trained them to expect that they have no choice about going into dangerous looking areas and obvious looking traps.

That makes it Learn-by-dying. Anything Learn-by-dying is not going to be acceptable to a large group of players.

No amount of warning, odd textures, or other things are going to be sufficient warning on this trap. It is just decoration, not deterrent. Doom map appearance is already full of marginal representations, grainy graphics, and rendering artifacts. Players try to tune that stuff out and imagine something applicable to the theme. This should not be used against them, or to mislead the player into a fatal trap. It would abuse their playing along with the game. The only way to rescue this design is to make it non-fatal.

Share this post


Link to post
wesleyjohnson said:

If a fatal pit is completely obvious (such that a 6 year old would stay out) then a fool that goes in should expect to die. A pit of stakes with toxic slime should kill the player.

Like I said: Death traps might (but not always) be acceptable if obviously marked. Doom's LAVA flat alone (in a deep pit with minimum detail in it) should do a sufficient basic job to announce a death trap. In Adventures of Square, there is an insta-killing steaming cyan goo and its purpose is explained early on, that's also well done I'd say.

Share this post


Link to post
scifista42 said:

In Adventures of Square, there is an insta-killing steaming cyan goo and its purpose is explained early on, that's also well done I'd say.


I agree with this. If you're going to put an instant-death trap in your level, warn players beforehand. Just don't tell them where it is. It might add to the tension. What do you think?

Share this post


Link to post

Having reviewed my options, I've decided to make the trap escapable. Right now I just have a red skull key in there which is never used in the map, though I think having a fake yellow key would be more fun. I don't really have a means of warning the player beforehand that wouldn't be kind of forced, and as the map develops I find that, depending on the route the player chooses, it may not be as "early in the level" as it is now. It's still a nasty trap, and if the player doesn't react quickly enough it'll still probably spell death for them, but I think it'll be more fair--while still providing a tense moment--if the player can flee after realizing they've been tricked.

Share this post


Link to post

Actually, I'd be more pissed off at inescapable pits or dead-ends which don't kill you (either instantly, or gradually, with a damaging floor). Especially when the author admits that it's a trap, but simply tells you "if you fall into X, consider yourself dead and restart", without even actually bothering with a damaging floor.

Share this post


Link to post

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
×