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VGA

Doom mapping tenets?

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I adapted Scifista's ideas a little:

  • There mustn't be any possibility to get stuck, ever. This includes situations when the player has 1% health and there are damaging floors in his way.
  • The map must be beatable from pistol start. (Because a death results in a pistol start)
  • The player must be able to beat the map without foreknowledge of it. There mustn't be unwarranted deaths.
  • When the player reaches the map exit, he must be able to backtrack through the entire map. Map areas should never be permanently locked off.
  • There must be a possibility to get 100% kills, 100% items and 100% secrets, player shouldn't lose this possibility at any point.
  • Exit should be always marked in a way that it's clear that it's supposed to be an exit, preferably with an exit sign. (however, fake exits are allowed)
  • Interactive objects (doors, switches etc.) should always be recognizable at first sight, and never be interchangable with non-interactive scenery, unless they're optional secrets.
  • Secrets should be findable without completely random wallhumping. There should be at least one little hint to each of them.
  • Each secret should be properly marked with exactly 1 secret sector special that will always be properly triggered when the secret is reached. Non-secret areas shouldn't be marked with this special - the only exception are maps with no secrets, these might (or might not) use 1 unavoidable secret special near the start or the end.


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Are there any rules that should never be broken in Doom mapping? Is there a discussion about this? Here's two I thought of:

First, the player should never get stuck, if he falls down somewhere then he should be able to get back up somehow or the floor must be damaging so he dies. (And he also should not get stuck due to sequence breaking of course.)

Second, after loading in, the map should be in an "inactive" state. No monsters should get activated by seeing the player and he shouldn't be in a moving platform or something like that. In other words, the player should be safe to look around while standing still.

Do you agree with these two? The reason I'm asking is because of the map Attack from the Master Levels and Requiem's MAP03. How many times are these two rules broken in the original IWADs?

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Off the top of my head, E3M4 has a demon that sees you right away, I believe.

I think monsters activating on map start is OK if the player has time to react before they get beat on.

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VGA said:

First, the player should never get stuck, if he falls down somewhere then he should be able to get back up somehow or the floor must be damaging so he dies. (And he also should not get stuck due to sequence breaking of course.)

Second, after loading in, the map should be in an "inactive" state. No monsters should get activated by seeing the player and he shouldn't be in a moving platform or something like that. In other words, the player should be safe to look around while standing still.

Do you agree with these two?

I agree with the first and disagree with the second. Getting stuck is downright terrible, annoying and unfair, as well as being condemned to unwarranted death due to an unexpected lethal gimmick. On the other hand, I'm comfortable with a map that's active since the very start, seeing it as an universally wrong thing seems like an arbitrary dogma to me, more like someone's personal preference than a "tenet".

I admit that I might be biased. I hate dying. I can accept dying as a punishment for my own mistakes and reconcile with it more easily then, as I can only blame myself. But any unwarranted dying or forced game reloading is outrageous for me. There might be people who are more tolerant about it, taking dying only as one of many game mechanics that has to be accounted for. I'm not saying that these people are anyhow wrong, I just personally can't sympathetize at all. Hence my bias.

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You only need to be treating mapping tenets as unbreakable 'rules' if you are incapable of using your own judgment to examine how any given feature affects the experience.

You don't need a rule to tell you that it's almost always detrimental to fun to be trapped helplessly, wasting time looking around wondering if your predicament is a map error, or if you're too stupid to find the way out, or if the designer simply thought it'd be fun to annoy you. That's the real distinction between a non-lethal inescapable pit vs the same pit with a damaging floor. From a level progression standpoint, they're equivalent: game over--you need to either restart or cheat in order to continue. Killing the player for their mistake and putting them back into the action is more conducive to fun than leaving them sitting there like a naughty child sent to stand in the corner for a time-out.

The second rule has a good underlying principle (it's fun to play at your own pace), but it's very arbitrary. Aside from E3M4, it's noticeably broken by E1M2, E2M3, E2M9, E2M7, E3M3, E3M7, E4M2, MAP11, MAP15, MAP19, and MAP20, just in the first two games. Some of those are among my favorite IWAD levels. I think that in most of those cases, even in the maps that I don't really care for, the gameplay is made more interesting by starting you off on your toes.

scifista42 said:

Getting stuck is downright terrible, annoying and unfair, as well as being condemned to unwarranted death due to an unexpected lethal gimmick. I admit that I might be biased. I hate dying. I can accept dying as a punishment for my own mistakes and reconcile with it more easily then, as I can only blame myself. But any unwarranted dying or forced game reloading is outrageous for me. There might be people who are more tolerant about it, taking dying only as one of many game mechanics that has to be accounted for.

I think it also has to do with differing thresholds and criteria for what each person considers unfair or unwarranted. I don't really like dying either, but I find it fun reacting to unexpected ambushes, floor and ceiling traps, make-this-jump-or-die style platforming, being warped into huge melees with no weapons or foreknowledge, and a bunch of other things that would likely fall under the description 'lethal gimmick'. When I die due to something like that, I tend to see it as a result of my tactical mistakes as much as a failure to block an archvile attack or dodge a rocket would be combat mistakes. I understand that, for good reason, many other players don't see things that way.

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In addition to what I've said before, here are mapping tenets that I approve. They're not godly, greater goodness (you have a point, Mithran Denizen). They're just making playthroughs fair and comfortable and therefore satisfactory for me.

  • There mustn't be any possibility to get stuck, ever. This includes situations when the player has 1% health and there are damaging floors in his way.
  • There mustn't be unwarranted deaths. (already explained)
  • The map must contain Player1 Start and a reachable exit. (obvious)
  • There should be a possibility to eventually backtrack through the entire map, from any point. Parts can be temporarily locked out for gameplay purposes, but only temporarily.
  • There should be a possibility to get 100% kills, 100% items and 100% secrets, player shouldn't lose this possibility at any point in the map.
  • Exit should be always marked in a way that it's clear that it's supposed to be an exit, preferably with an exit sign. (however, fake exits are allowed)
  • Interactive objects (doors, switches etc.) should always be recognizable at first sight, and never be interchangable with non-interactive scenery, unless they're optional secrets.
  • Secrets should be findable without completely random wallhumping. There should be at least one little hint to each of them.
  • Each secret should be properly marked with exactly 1 secret sector special that will always be properly triggered when the secret is reached. Non-secret areas shouldn't be marked with this special - the only exception are maps with no secrets, these might (or might not) use 1 unavoidable secret special near the start or the end.

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- Player one start.

- An exit.

- Something to do other than press the exit switch.

Then I can call it an actual map in its most basic form.

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You can get stuck on outsides of the donut in Doom E1M3, if you're clumsy enough to fall down there. That happened to me in the early days, and yeah it sucks but I didn't really think much about it beyond "oh shit I should be more careful in this spot".

I think that case is okay, because eventually you die if you fall in there. It's like falling down a huge cliff in Hexen... splat! You die instantly there, but Doom doesn't have that feature and so instead you swim around in nukage for a few seconds.

So that's not really getting "stuck", which would actually be like falling into a normal pit (without nukage) from where is no escape and you're stuck there until you restart the game or reload your save or noclip or whatever. That's bad design, because it forces the player to take an out-of-context action to change the game state.

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Captain Toenail said:

Your megawad must feature at least one toilet or item of over-sized furniture constructed from sectors, it is known.

And one of the maps must be based on your house/school/workplace.

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scifista42 said:

There should be a possibility to eventually backtrack through the entire map, from any point. Parts can be temporarily locked out for gameplay purposes, but only temporarily.

[/b]
I'm sure there are some levels that subvert this tenet for good effect (none immediately come to mind), but paths which permanently close behind you can be annoying, especially if you were intending to go back and explore before you were unexpectedly locked out. One-sided doors like those in E3M1 are really lame for this reason, though that map is trivial enough that it doesn't really matter. I don't mind this so much when the point of no return is marked by something like an onimous teleporter or a drop off of a high ledge.

Secrets should be findable without completely random wallhumping. There should be at least one little hint to each of them.

In addition to giving hints, I like the sort that open up with no overt warning, then require you to backtrack and then stumble onto them (e.g. the MAP01 rocket launcher alcove; the E1M1 shotgun / lift area)

On something of a tangent, doing away with some of the monotony in wallhumping is why I think Carmack's iOS port of Wolf3D is an improvement over the vanilla game: secret walls open up when you simply bump into them, making it much less tedious. I'd love to see this as a feature in ECWolf.

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Mithran Denizen said:

[/b]
On something of a tangent, doing away with some of the monotony in wallhumping is why I think Carmack's iOS port of Wolf3D is an improvement over the vanilla game: secret walls open up when you simply bump into them, making it much less tedious. I'd love to see this as a feature in ECWolf.


I only played shareware Wolf3D, but found many of the secrets simply by intuition. I didn't hump every wall methodically, just ones that seemed interesting. Found a whole lot of secrets that way, and I wasn't even mapping on graph paper.

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I tend to prefer safer start areas. Ones that start you fighting right off I can accept, but there is a limit. Especially in co-op, I remember when me and Springy played through HR2, and I think it was MAP28 I ended up fuming over the arch-viles just running into the start and killing us as soon as we spawned :P Not to mention the cyberdemons camping the doorway...


And as I've said many times before, death pits can fuck right off.

If you put a teleporter in that lava pit, that'll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if you don't, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you.

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Here goes:

1 - The player should see a door/switch requiring a key before they actually find the key.

2 - Powerups should be placed in an area where they have an immediate use

3 - If you can see it, you should be able to get to it unless making a way there would detract from the flow or stand out like a sore thumb.

4 - I like to introduce a few mechanics at a time like doors, switches, environmental hazards, etc. as if the player has never played doom before, even if I'm making a really hard mapset.

5 - All maps should be playable from a pistol start

6 - Detail should serve to convey an idea, rather than take up space.

7 - Make spaces interesting with odd angles, contrast in height and lighting, etc.

8 - Inescapable traps should never be used unless they are part of the premise of an area.

9 - The player should be rewarded, rather than punished, for straying off the beaten path. This can be in the form of powerups, a cool looking area, etc.

10 - All side areas should eventually loop around back to the main path.

11 - Make each area of a map serve as a landmark.

12 - Use traps creatively, if you can - monster closets and teleport ambushes get old pretty quickly.

13 - Don't make the player do the same thing for too long, change up the pacing/objectives every once in a while.

14 - Hubspokes are bad and you should feel bad for using them.

15 - Don't connect every area of your map with corridors, that's lame.

These are my personal ideals and I'll be the first to admit that I follow a lot less of them than I should. :P

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Marnetmar said:

1 - The player should see a door/switch requiring a key before they actually find the key.


THIS

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Marnetmar said, scifista42 rephrased:
1 - The player should BE ABLE TO FIND AND see a door/switch requiring a key IF HE EXPLORED ENOUGH, before they actually find the key.

And even this altered rule doesn't seem like that much important one at all to me.

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Good ideas, guys. I will edit the first post later.

What about damaging water? I feel it is unfair, a Doom player is trained (by the IWADs) to recognize lava and slime as damaging, not water. Do you agree with this?

And just to keep the discussion on the right track, the purpose of this thread is to lay down some mapper/player conventions, to promote better communication TO the player about what's going on in a map and what he can expect. It's about avoiding frustration when getting stuck or being unable to get MAX on a map. It's not about rules to make quality maps.

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I guess you could try and pretend that the damaging water in your map isn't in fact water, rather some other liquid that's dangerous and blue, but you'd never get away with it, at least as long as it's the default texture, since everyone is accustomed to seeing it as water.
If a damaging blue liquid is needed, it's best to just go down the custom texture route so people don't think of water. Take Square's cyan insta-kill slime as an example.

I also personally wouldn't make mud and blood floors damaging either, though I'm not sure what I'd do with that other brown liquid that kind of glows and should be damaging, because it could look too similar to the normal mud. Perhaps just not use it would be the best thing.

At the very least, I think it's nice for a WAD to be consistent with what liquids are damaging and which ones are non-damaging. Sadly, it's difficult to enforce when multiple mappers are involved.

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Is there any consistency about damaging floors in the original IWADs?

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VGA said:

And just to keep the discussion on the right track, the purpose of this thread is to lay down some mapper/player conventions, to promote better communication TO the player about what's going on in a map and what he can expect. It's about avoiding frustration when getting stuck or being unable to get MAX on a map. It's not about rules to make quality maps.

Does this mean that my list of rules is approved in this very thread? And what about Marnetmar's, is it?

VGA said:

What about damaging water? I feel it is unfair, a Doom player is trained (by the IWADs) to recognize lava and slime as damaging, not water. Do you agree with this?

Yes, damaging water is odd and gimmicky at least, and can be bad when unexpected (Requiem MAP03). In Going Down MAP06, it's okay, because it's placed as a coolant in reactor-like rooms with RADIATION signs and radsuits around.

VGA said:

Is there any consistency about damaging floors in the original IWADs?

In Doom and Doom 2, I believe that NUKAGE does 2-5% damage, blood 5-10%, lava 10-20% and water is non-damaging (except E3M3:Pandemonium), and brown slimes are damaging too, though I'm unsure if always the same. Plutonia breaks these conventions and acts inconsistently, TNT probably too.

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Even if there was, why would you want to follow them? You're making new stuff, not playing copy cat. So you have to use your own conventions that make sense in the context of your wad. Requiem map03 has damaging water because it's freezing arctic climate. Some wads even have damaging concrete floor because sector is right next to core reactor, or whatever. Use your judgement...

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Yeah, I would really like to see more mappers that are confident about their own choices and don't need other players to tell them what's good and what's not. So many modern threads about mapping and map feedback seem like one big plot to rob aspiring mappers of their own identity, with same people repeating same points again and again like robots, how do they not get bored of writing that? It must be a conspiracy.

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I always considered it a half-assed job when maps that had inescapable (but not damaging) pits simply handwaved them in the README, with a statement to the effect of "If you get stuck somewhere, consider yourself dead and restart the map".

Riiight....how about I just consider myself ripped off and IDCLEV my way out instead, bitch?! Or how about you just make it actually DAMAGING if it's supposed to be a trap?

Maps with irreversible actions or door & platform puzzles that could get stuck in an unwinnable state also suck balls.

Another major suckage is maps where there are compulsory nukage/lava crossings where you're supposed to take damage. If you happen to reach them with too low health to make the crossing, you're pretty much stuck.

I think in HR (?) there's an entire level set in a nukage sewer. There are frequent radsuits pickups, but due to the hardcoded radsuit timing, they only last 30 seconds, so you're always 30 seconds away from being rectally sodomized with a nukage enema, and you will take damage at some point. Even with the IDBEHOLDR cheat it's frustrating, as you have to repeat it every so often.

And, as always, ammo balance. If I'm supposed to use the pistol to avoid wasting one extra bullet in order to make it to end of the map, then thanks but no thanks.

In general, I dislike maps which rely on a certain gimmick or a foreknowledge of a particular tactic in order to be survivable. Said gimmick may make tons of sense to the author, but not to another person playing his map.

Some examples include: a map where you're supposed to fight archviles upfront and rely only on SSG flinching (!) to avoid getting blasted, or one where you have to follow a very specific path and attack only very specific enemies with very specific weapons to avoid running out of ammo.

In such a case, at least have the courtesy of giving a hint in the README, or implementing difficulty settings.

Finally, obligatory SR40/SR50 jumps suck.

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Memfis said:

Yeah, I would really like to see more mappers that are confident about their own choices and don't need other players to tell them what's good and what's not. So many modern threads about mapping and map feedback seem like one big plot to rob aspiring mappers of their own identity, with same people repeating same points again and again like robots, how do they not get bored of writing that? It must be a conspiracy.

Without being touchy, I can safely assume that I'm one of these people you're referring to. Well, speaking for myself, I look at the issue from a different point of view. I tend to disregard long-term generalizations and only concentrate on the immediate effects regarding each particular person who requested a response.

When an author releases his work publicly, it's never wrong to assume that he wishes to get a response. Many mappers accompany their maps with a call "Feedback appreciated!", and even those who just say "Enjoy!" (or say nothing at all) would be usually glad for a response.

I personally believe that: 1. Any feedback is better than silence. 2. Honest feedback is always the best feedback. 3. Thorough feedback is much more helpful than pointing out just selected details that sticked in the reviewer's mind as differentiating this map from other maps in the reviewer's experience, while the author himself doesn't and cannot have this experience.

I'm interested in game design and I've read a lot about it, mostly on Doomworld. Even more so, I really like and enjoy playing various wads. I have no talent, though, I'm a terrible person, player, writer, speaker, mapper, judge and everything.

However, during my experience, I've been able to notice and categorize design choices that I consider good and that I consider bad. I can consequently recognize them in wads that I play newly. I'm fully aware that it's all just subjective, but I can't do better.

As I said, I'm interested in game design. I sympathetize with all map/mod/wad/game authors - whoever they are, and however experienced they are - who come here to promote their work. So I do the only potentially helpful thing for them that I believe I can: Try to provide honest and thorough feedback.

(NOW FINALLY TO MEMFIS'S POINT:)

Sometimes, specially in case of less experienced authors, I'd also try to give them a direction (if I feel that I can). I do it for the sake of informing them about quick, relatively efficient and known ways how to visibly *improve* (that means, in the eyes of audience).

I do myself believe that there are yet unexplored, unidentified awesome things to be done in map design, invented by individuals and using them as their unique personal style. I'm all for searching for them, not against it. All I do is trying to give a direction out of obvious dead ends as I see them, for the sake of ease, comfortability and efficiency on the quest after *good design*.

I really don't believe that this makes me an evil creativity-destroyer. I do, actually do value inventive ideas I see. If I consider them being done properly, I say it. If I consider them being done improperly, I say it. If the mapper takes voices of players into consideration, and if the feedback had been actually honest and legit, then it's much more likely to set him in the good direction rather than bad. "More likely" being the keyword.

Back to the beginning, from the reviewer's standpoint it's still better than keeping silence, providing dishonest feedback or raising up just random thoughts that the listener might not fully comprehend, because he can't imagine the entire picture.

That's how I personally see it. Your idea is right, Memfis, as one point of view.

Last thing I wanted to say: I tend to use very same-y phrasing in my posts because it's the easiest for me. I notice the same things, I call them the same. Reusing or even reinventing words is easier for me that rephrasing that's not really necessary, specially since I'm not native English speaker, and a really imperfect speaker in general. And as I said, I believe in helpful-ness of thorough feedback better than just selected thoughts, that's why I sound like a broken record sometimes.

Sorry for the long post that's just partially relevant to the thread, but hopefully not too badly off-topic.

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VGA said:

What about damaging water? I feel it is unfair, a Doom player is trained (by the IWADs) to recognize lava and slime as damaging, not water. Do you agree with this?


I was too lazy to run doom and take a screenshot myself, so I found one.



This is damaging water in Doom 1 E3M3. You also can get stuck in it with no way out.

Just make sure you do something to communicate to the player that he's going to get hurt. In this case there are poison signs around. There's a part in half life where there is a live electrical wire hanging from a flooded room, making the water an electroshock hazard. You can do whatever you want to do as long as the rules of the game are correctly illustrated and communicated to the player.

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It's very important to know how to use feedback. Being able to read into it more than just the very obvious (for example, if everyone dies at a certain point, it doesn't necessarily require the obvious solutions of more health/fewer monsters). Analyzing FDAs is great, and gives you much more of an insight of the player's mindset during the game than just their feedback, but using both is obviously the best decision.

Re: topic- As people have pointed out, using strict rules and tenets are definitely a bad idea. I prefer to take the approach of aiming for a particular style of play and gearing the design towards that in any way I can, and using feedback and my own playtesting to see if I have succeeded in my goals or not. Of course, no one approach is the correct one, I just use this one myself. Sometimes.

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I was hoping to specify some unopposable "rules" not to stifle a mapper's creativity but just to promote fun and fairness for the players.

Would you oppose any of the points I edited in the first post of the thread? Do you think one of those tenets would make a map duller than it otherwise would be?

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VGA said:

Would you oppose any of the points I edited in the first post of the thread? Do you think one of those tenets would make a map duller than it otherwise would be?

Pretty much all of them :) At least, counterexamples aren't hard to conjure. Take beatability: I recall a number of maps popping up over the years for which, at least initially, it was unclear whether or not they were beatable. That didn't detract from the fact that they were fun to play. Likewise, I've played countless maps that I couldn't have beaten without foreknowledge, and dying a few times. They were all good maps, and would certainly have been less fun for me if there was no element having to figure them out through a little trial and error.

jmickle66666666 said:

no one approach is the correct one

In a nutshell.

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You know, VGA, nothing like unopposable rules exist anywhere in the world. There will always be somebody who oppose them, and proving him that he's wrong (by other means than by using force) might be literally impossible.

Speaking in relatively less extreme examples, there might be even Doom players who accept forced reloading the game as a valid gameplay mechanic instead of bullshit, or who claim, you know, that it's best to not play at all. :)

Doomworld forums specifically are full of nihilists, extremists and syntax/semantics perfectionists who will undermine any roots you would ever try to sink into the ground.

It's annoying sometimes, but that's the modern age. No safe room for conservatism and certitudes anymore, not even in their slightest forms.

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Memfis said:

Yeah, I would really like to see more mappers that are confident about their own choices and don't need other players to tell them what's good and what's not. So many modern threads about mapping and map feedback seem like one big plot to rob aspiring mappers of their own identity, with same people repeating same points again and again like robots, how do they not get bored of writing that? It must be a conspiracy.


nobody stopped me from deliberately using the ghost monster bug in my latest map, even though it won't work on most ports anyways.

oh wait, no one seems to give feedback to any of my work.

also, basically everything Maes said.

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