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Maes

How should a "good" Doom player be defined?

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In the mapping tenets threads, the discussion quickly turned to the subject of game fairness, gameplay depth, acceptable and non-acceptable elements etc. and of course the obvious (for the most part veiled) mutual accusations of being scrubs, whiners, noobs etc. if some gameplay element is considered too "unfair".

That raises the question, IMO: does being a good Doom player mean that one should be always ready and alert for all kinds of possible gameplay traps, foreseeing unwinnable situations, avoiding traps, taking zero risks, always playing it safe, smelling ambushes coming from a mile away etc. even on unfamiliar maps?

I postulated that if that were the case, then the "best" Doom players should be sought between hardcore Survival players or the most successful FDAers, and not speedrunners or deathmatchers. Speedrunning consists basically of over-training on completing a specific map, and analyzing it under a microscope to detect any possible shortcut or exploitable glitch, aka maximizing retrospective knowledge of the map, while deathmatching is basically all about lightning reflexes and memorizing spawning and spamming patterns (hey, don't blame me, that's what it has become!).

But, it could be argued, given enough time and patience almost anybody could do that or at least take a decent shot at speedrunning and even win in a BFG spamming contest, while it takes quite a different skillset to be a good "all around" Doom player, one that is hard to kill or fool with beginner's traps.

One having a "talent" for surviving an unknown map, being broken with 10000 experiences from previous maps to the point that nothing can surprise him, nothing can ambush him, nothing can trap him, nothing can cause him to tread carelessly, knows all the tricks in the book etc. and yet he can also put up a decent fight in a deathmatch, stopping campers and pattern griefers cold in their tracks, fighting as well with tight ammo as he does on slaughtermaps etc.

Dunno, what do you think?

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Good player: A player whose skill allows him to be successful at the given game (or a gamemode) he plays, no matter how he does it. That's how I'd define him. "Successful" doesn't necessarily mean compared to other players, it's mainly related to the game's goals, whatever these goals are - for example winning a hard game at all, winning it often enough (when trying repeatedly), winning fast enough, winning with good-enough stats or score, etc. All this "enough" is obviously a subjective thing.

Now - still generally speaking - a good action-game player should preferably have both lightning reflexes and perfect knowledge of the game mechanics, tricks and efficient strategies to effectivize his own playstyle. This is what constitutes the rawest form of a good Doom player, IMO.

The rest depends on the situation he's put in - for example the gamemode. In singleplayer, he should perfectly understand common design choices used by mappers, as well as being able to "empathetize" with the mapper, so much so that he can "predict" an unfamiliar map. In deathmatch, he should be able to invent and then keep using an efficient strategy, considering the map's given layout and positions of spawning spots, weapons, items etc. In speedrunning, he should be able to analyze the map for his purposes and then be incredibly precise and persistent in his attempts to do a good run.

"Taking zero risks and always playing it safe" is not necessary and not even possible, IMO. Same with the "nothing can surprise him, nothing can ambush him, nothing can trap him, nothing can cause him to tread carelessly" (I'm quoting Maes here) - that's also hardly possible. The player's mere abilities is what matters. They will always be limited, though. Also, he might not always want to bother using his skill at 100% maximum - and he still remains a good player.

That's how I see it.

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Then who's "the best" Doom player? The one that speedruns faster? Adam Hegyi, who's notoriously the only one who can outrun the Revenant's missiles? Or Cilean BFG spammers, who bag you every time?

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A good Doom player is ready for tricks & traps (OH BABY LOVE THEM PUNS) in singleplayer / survival and knows how to best deal with all enemies and their various attacks. He/she knows which weapon to use and when, and conserves ammo as much as possible, using things like infighting to their advantage.

A good Doom player can at least hold their own in deathmatch, even with a laggy connection, and on different source ports. They're ready for everything from a brit10 spamfest to some real strategic matches on maps like SSL2.

A good Doom player lays the smack-down with mouse+keyboard, but can also competently use a controller/joystick in a pinch.

This is all just my opinion, though. Obviously some Doomers are going to be better in some aspects than others. I raised a similar question a few years ago, but the thread kinda got derailed about the definition of the word "pro". Which isn't surprising, after all, this is DW.

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Maes said:

Adam Hegyi, who's notoriously the only one who can outrun the Revenant's missiles??

I can't help but laugh EVERY time I hear that one :D

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Maes said:

Then who's "the best" Doom player?

Whoever proves to have the 2 basic qualities as I've stated them: Reflexes and knowledge, and who is highly successful in his game thanks to these qualities. I agree with you that these very best players are likely to be found among "hardcore Survival players or the most successful FDAers", but that doesn't mean at all that deathmatchers or speedrunners cannot have just as great reflexes and knowledge and therefore be just as good players.

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Well, a speedrunner will have a very focused knowledge depending on which map he's speedrunning at the time. Certainly, that might teach him a trick or two in the long run but that doesn't change the fact that this is a very artificial, almost clinical twist on the gameplay. A speedrunner is basically executing a script, and his ultimate goal is becoming more or less a human .LMP playing machine. Plus, he has endless retries until he "gets it right". Behind each impressive complete COMPET-N demo there must be tens or even hundreds of botched attempts.

A deathmatcher, depending on the kinds of maps that he plays, may be very good at e.g. never missing SSG shots, always being near spawning players (without camping though), knowing always where his opponent is even in 1-on-1s taking place in large maps etc., or having the spawn + spamming patterns down to an art (though in most cases, this last kind of players feels like bots executing a script). It matters little if a spammer can be stopped by "appropriate strategy" because unless it's a 1-on-1, he will simply avoid you and turn on other players, racking up kills faster than you, and still coming on top.

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Let me get the elephant out of the room. Your definition of a "good Doom player" is ad hoc. It only promotes a particular set of skills, no matter how long you make the list sound. Most of those skills can also be observed in Extremely Boring Campers who funnel all monsters through the narrowest door they can find, who refuse to walk into a room until they chaingun-tap to death that manco sniper (or five) in the far distance, who will rather plink a cyberdemon to death with all of their shell and bullet ammo instead of squeezing past him to grab a plasma gun. Simply said, people who slavishly abuse a different set of shortcomings of the engine and the map's layout than speedrunners.

Why do you think FDAs haven't really made it big and are stuck between being recognized as a legit recording category and a mere playtesting tool? The answer is: FDAs for hard maps are usually painfully boring to watch as the survivalist player employs all the anti-fun strategies available in order to avoid the challenge whenever possible. It's a meta-game of not playing the game and usually only the mapper cares... so he can proof his map against such exploits.

To give you an example, when I was balancing btsx e2map31, I asked Ribbiks and j4rio for feedback and they both provided FDAs. They're both fantastic survivalist players, the cream of the crop. jario dived into fights fearlessly, danced between projectiles, skillfully obliterated many traps, but some surprises were too much for him when stacked on top of all the chaos around, so he died a bunch of times. Ribbiks approached the map clinically and abused everything he could before moving on, only displaying that same skill when he couldn't run away or snipe off. He survived (just barely), but some of the action avoidance was so frustrating to watch that I wouldn't be able to sit through it without pr+'s precious fast-forward playback. Both of their demos were very helpful in finetuning the map, but Ribbiks' one more in the sense of "we need to make all of that impossible", heh. He even apologized for playing that way, because that's what FDAing a hardcore map leads to when you care about surviving at all costs.

And take the Russian FDA contests as another example. Faster time wins, but they aim the difficulty at a balance where it might be more advantageous to scope out the terrain, die in some key trap early on and then finish the map fast with some valuable preknowledge. If the map is too easy, it becomes a blind speedrun contest and dying is just an unfortunate disqualification. If the map is too hard, dying is equally punishing, because even the good players have to take it slow and safe in order to not waste all that slowness and safety. This implies it's much more exciting if there's a speedrunning element in a survivalist competition.

This leads to my second point. You make it sound like speedrunners and survival specialists are exclusive fractions, but they overlap to a large degree. The players that would probably top your survivalist ladder tend to post awesome demos of also doing it fast. The Doomgods of the olden days were proud to also combine the above with deathmatching prowess. How can I call myself a better player for FDAing Death-Destiny's maps when I get my arse kicked unceremoniously on judas23? The skillsets required for the various aspects of Doom gameplay may be slightly different, but they do tend to complement each other. If you get two players that are equally "ready and alert for all kinds of possible gameplay traps, foreseeing unwinnable situations, avoiding traps, taking zero risks, always playing it safe, smelling ambushes coming from a mile away etc. even on unfamiliar maps", but one of them has god-tier sr50 movement, surely he's the better player of the pair.


Tl;dr the best player the one that plays hard, fast and with great panache. He's fun to watch.

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I think there's a strong merit both to speedrunners who will analyze a single map or wad, and to those who can cope with the unexpected ambushes on their first blind playthrough.

Both are very admirable skills.

Complainers are usually the people who are more interested in having fun rather than flexing their muscles. So when unexpected bullshit ambushes may be "fair" to a really responsive and tactical player, they aren't always fun, unless you get the satisfaction of surviving or without taking significant damage.

EDIT: meh, dew said it better.

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dew said:

Tl;dr the best player the one that plays hard, fast and with great panache. He's fun to watch.

The italicised part doesn't get emphasised enough - the ability to succeed or survive with style (for lack of a better word) would be high on my list of key attributes.

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You did raise some valid points there, but in the end it came out that a good Doom player is merely one who offers a good show. Specialized speedrunning IMO is geared 100% towards this, just like a glam metal band's choreography, though not everybody might like glam, or a 100 meter dash, which is "short and sweet".

A more careful player's FDA might be like watching a 10000m race between skinny Kenyans and Somalis, by comparison. They both are runners, but in this case they both tend to some extreme...maybe 400-800m is the best then?

dew said:

Tl;dr the best player the one that plays hard, fast and with great panache. He's fun to watch.


...you mean you wouldn't watch some demos where I exhibit my close-the-door-in-your-face tactic? :_(

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The "problem" with Doom is that it doesn't have scoring, or really much in the way of gameplay metrics. Yeah, it has K/S/I + time, which resulted in the birth of Doom speedrunning, but Doom, the game system, doesn't really give you much positive/negative feedback about your scores there. You don't get graded S-to-E like an action game, for instance, and there's no high-score-table in Doom- in fact, they removed it during development. Some of the metrics are even contradictory- it's usually extremely difficult-to-impossible to get 100% Kills and a par time, for example, and anyway, who cares about 100% Items?

Like, you can complain about players playing conservatively to survive above all, but that's because the only "metric" that really impacts feedback is survival- very basically, if you don't survive, you die, and if you do, you win. So players aren't "wrong" to play conservatively- they simply aren't being incentivized enough to take risks. Fortunately, this is something that a lot of mapmakers these days recognize, and try to fix. These days, when I see a map can be easily reduced to "funnel the monsters through a door", I don't consider it a fault in the players who use this strategy, I consider it a fault in the map.

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Some metrics would be fun. For example average damage rate (total damage inflicted on monsters, divided by exit time), and the player's average movement speed. You could easily hack things like that into prboom-plus, run stats on a bunch of demos, and see if anything interesting shows up.

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I've never played deathmatch, so I can only speak for singleplayer:

I would say that a truly good Doom player is one who is skilled & more importantly adaptable enough to meet all the reasonable challenges imposed by the mapmaker (although I grant that the definition of what is reasonable is subject to considerable debate; I think we can all agree however that troll WADs which deliberately fuck with the player aren't reasonable). All that competition category stuff definitely requires skill to pull of well, but they strike me as a kind of "professionalisation" of what in the absence of competitions would be merely self-imposed challenges. Depending on the exact levels being played, such idiosyncratic approaches to completing levels can constitute crippling over-specialisation. For example, I don't see how a pacifist run would work in E1M8 due to the fact that you need to kill the bruiser brothers to complete the level. Any earnest attempt at speedrunning necessarily entails at least some avoidance rather than engagement with monsters, and given the chaotic nature of the movement of large numbers of monsters this could easily result in the death of the player due to being cornered or surrounded, especially if you can't or won't jump and run over the monsters' heads.

Mind you, I'm kind of a latecomer to Doom; I get the feeling that a lot of you guys have been playing a good while and thus might have a different view on things.

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Someone who can snipe you or a monster with rockets from the other side of a large map.. with all of the rockets hitting.. with and without vertical mouse aim.

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I think a good player has to be able to do more than anticipate traps and use knowledge of the game engine to their advantage, I would describe a player able to do this as experienced. They would also need dexterity, instinct, precise movement and quick reactions to describe them as good IMO.

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purist said:

I think a good player has to be able to do more than anticipate traps and use knowledge of the game engine to their advantage, I would describe a player able to do this as experienced. They would also need dexterity, instinct, precise movement and quick reactions to describe them as good IMO.

I agree with this. Good job, purist, that you didn't need to write a wall of text to express yourself, like many of us did. :)

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dew said:

btsx e2map31

bigger issue here is that playtesting maps past a certain length*difficulty threshold makes conventional FDAs useless: tedious to record, tedious to watch. I can and will play like a reckless jackass, but not if testing a map that's relatively difficult and an hour long. at that point either recording with saves (which I should've done in retrospect but only recently found out about), or streaming it somehow (through skype or twitch or whatever) would've been a much better idea. for detailed playtesting on long maps it's hard to just play through like you normally would and then spit commentary, all the small little nuances you thought of while playing will be forgotten by the time you complete it. either way, there's inherent value in cheese-demos: "oh, I guess that can be broken. does this egregious sin offend my sensibilities enough to do something about it?". Isn't it a playtesters job to try and break things?



to actually answer the OP: I find myself most impressed by players with the ability to route out and conquer hard maps in short amounts of time/practice. the doom gods, savants, w.e. Like j4 or anc, among others, or like oku lolzing his way through sunder maps after claiming to have only practiced it for an hour (assuming he wasn't cheating or what-have-you).

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Oh, absolutely. Your feedback was critical and it's better to watch your best laid plans fall apart when you can still do something about it rather than in every demo ever after. And it's not like I have the right to call someone out on abusing map design when it's almost my job description here, heh. I used your example, because I wouldn't want to see such cheesing to become the "competitive" norm in a world where FDAs are taken seriously.

Btw, my preferred method of test-recording is to play rather cautiously, but without restraining myself to bitter survivalism. Fun should be had and I like an occasional flashy move. Then if I die, I start recording a new segment, but I lump the original death run(s) into the archive with a comment/label about the skipsec value to be used (on the longer reloaded files of course) if the mapper wants to see the bloody bits. The final file looks like I aced the map without dying, haha.

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Looking just at the question in the OP, I can't really say anything else other than the pragmatic "It depends." A good speedrunner is different than a good deathmatcher is different than a good CTF player is different than a good streamer...

There's also map genre to factor in too. There's probably someone out there who's a virtuoso at slaughtermaps but struggles at different types of gameplay due to relative unfamiliarity, for example.

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I would say this is true most of the time, but not always. A good player can also recognize a terribly designed map.

Catoptromancy said:

Good players blame themselves for their performance. Bad players blame the map.

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Oh not that old saying with the tools and all that. It's easily dashed by handing someone a rusty hammer dug up from some medieval castle ruins and saying "build a car." Or giving them a piece of tissue paper and saying "make me beautiful music."

In this case, throwing someone into nuts.wad and saying "have fun beating this."

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A good player should not spawn camp in deathmatch mode. ;_; Team Deathmatch and CTF, everything goes, except don't try to run up the scores against the other team... Seriously, balancing teams is a major issue in public CTF games.

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Is it safe to say that a good player could probably beat Doom 2, or Final Doom on UV, perhaps without saves, or each map from pistol start? We've been playing Doom a long time, it's probably safe to say that just about all of us are good at it by now.

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40oz said:

Is it safe to say that a good player could probably beat Doom 2, or Final Doom on UV, perhaps without saves, or each map from pistol start? We've been playing Doom a long time, it's probably safe to say that just about all of us are good at it by now.

maybe I underestimate the average skill of the experienced doom play but I consider myself as a veteran and I can't say that I'm confident in beating plutonia on UV with pistol start and without saves. this campain is still pretty unforgiving, even if you know the maps well.

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