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Angst929

Tips on coming up with a good map layout?

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I have an issue when it comes to mapping. I have honestly never truly completed a map. I have come close a few times, but I always end up being unsatisfied with the overall result and starting over. My issue is I have a very difficult time coming up with a layout that really clicks with me. It is usually too linear, it often ends up a very vanilla hub and spokes layout, or it often ends up just a series of interconnecting hallways and rooms.

I have a solid grasp on the technical side of Doom mapping. I have the ability to create most of the structures features I could want to make, I simply seem to lack the inspiration and overall map layout to create the foundation for these structures. I prefer mapping for vintage DOOM (no ZDoom features).

Are there any things that you experiences mappers do to create a good layout? Is there a particular workflow that you have? Do you usually start with a single room? Or is there a different method that you use?

Thanks for any advice!

EDIT: Here is a sample of one of my unfinished maps. Only the 1st map here is mostly finished. It's an Aztec themed map inspired by Epic 2 and Serious Sam: TSE. The second map is probably only 40% finished and doesn't have an exit yet.

https://www.mediafire.com/?4u8983tce7u14z3

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I think of gameplay setups and go from there. It doesn't have to be elaborate, something as simple as "the player will fight imps on ground level and mancs on platforms", or "this room will have one short dangerous way to reach the key and one longer but safer path to that same key". Building your rooms from a specific idea makes it easier to turn everything into natural points of interest.

I like to plan on paper, too. You don't have to draw a full map with accurate dimensions, just laying down ideas really quick gives you a feel for pacing. Got a flat room, could follow up with some verticality, got a big fight, could continue with a quiet exploration moment.

On a larger level it can help to think of a theme for the map, a defining moment it's structured around or a particular feature it uses. If you can give yourself a solid base to build upon, things tend to fall into place on their own.

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Maybe this will help you, or maybe it won't, but for me I often go with the MAP11: Circle of Death, or the E1M4: Command Control approach, where I start building the map from a large central room, then build outwards toward the start room, and out towards the exit. Then you can also build out towards required objectives like a key card or an important switch to give your players something to do. This gives you more control over how long and complex your map is than traditionally starting from the start room and working towards the exit.

Another mapping approach I do is to create a bunch of scattered disconnected rooms and place a thing in there to remind yourself what it exists for. (A key card for the key card room, a rocket launcher for the first rocket launcher pickup, a cyberdemon for a cybie boss battle, etc.) then decide how you're going to link the rooms together later.

Other tips:

Large rooms with short doorways leading in and out of them will help you with finding a good layout. Keep hallways short and not too snakey.

If you do use hallways, use pillars, ledges, and cages to put monsters in the other rooms so they stay put, or alternatively, reveal hordes with a monster closet or teleport ambush. Having all ground monsters makes them all funnel into the hallway openings where the player can just stand there and slowly grind them all to death. We usually identify these situations as "choke points" or "doorway camping" and can make your map feel less fun. You want to encourage the player to dive into a hairy situation and get attacked from front and back.

Using large ceiling height differences and creating windows in lieu of wall detail sectors that show the outside, or a part of the level you're going to visit later can help make your map feel larger, less claustrophobic and more open than it really is.

Dont think too hard unless you can diagnose a definite problem with a part of your map. Your opinion maybe skewed because you are you're harshest critic. Your map may be more enjoyable for first time players.

Maybe try posting some images of your map layouts, like a doombuilder screenshot or an Automap screenshot or something so we could help you more accurately.

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Thanks for the responses. I've checked out the linked YouTube videos and I've found them quite helpful. I may be too critical on myself as I tend to be a perfectionist.

I am currently uploading a WAD file from probably the most complete map I have. It is the first map of what was to be a multi-map wad (possibly megawad). I shelved it for a while due to the frustration of losing most of the progress I made on the second map. It is quite incomplete, but you can check it out too if you want. The more complete version of it was fairly different.

https://www.mediafire.com/?dj7a0dgfg480hzx

The map isn't totally complete, but I'd say it's probably 90% finished. It's an Aztec themed map inspired by Epic 2 and Serious Sam: TSE.

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The problem with layouts is that the second area always sucks in comparison to the first. Because in the first area you can always place the player start in such a way that the monsters are attacking from multiple sides, there are no easily accessible safe places, etc. But then you make a second area and connect it to the first with some entrance, so of course the player will be able to camp from that entrance easily without exposing himself to crossfires. Of course you can always close bars behind him or something like that but that feels cheap. So I guess only one-fight arena type maps should be made for best possible gameplay.

40oz said:

Dont think too hard unless you can diagnose a definite problem with a part of your map. Your opinion maybe skewed because you are you're harshest critic. Your map may be more enjoyable for first time players.

Unfortunately, that isn't really comforting, at least for me. If I think what I'm seeing in the editor sucks, I can't possibly go on pretending that it's all good. Can't just have fun with the editor.

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Yeah, this is definitely a challenge. I have experimented with using monster closets and monster teleporation ambushes to block off save havens. It seems to work in some instances, particularly if the entrance is narrower.

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@memfis: ^^ why are all your posts so depressing -.-

there are a myriad of ways to coax the player into approaching areas an "intended" way that exposes them to multiple dangers at once without resorting to pure arena layouts (not that I have anything against those). For example you could have enemies approaching from behind, but insufficient resources to take them out. when you run across the hall to pick up ammo you wake up and/or trigger more baddies from other angles. Another thing I abuse all the time is having resources needed to kill a group of enemies behind them, so you have to dance around them or through them briefly. You can also make "soft" arenas, that don't explicitly lock the player in but still make escaping difficult. In that set of birthday maps for Dime there was a cool example (I think it was purist's map?) where you had to run across -20 nukage into a tight space to trigger a fight. yeah you could run back if you wanted, but it would cost you a chunk of health. Another approach to that is the D-D-esque strategy of pinning monsters by the exits that (ideally) take too much time to deal with that the player is pretty much forced to stick around.

Like that 'rambo vs. camping-bitch' argument that cropped up some time ago, if a player is dead-set on playing as safely as possible (admittedly understandable for those who fda long maps without saves) you can only do so much before you just have to accept that you're not going to please everyone, so just make things that are fun the way you play them yourself and hope for the best. Either that or go unapologetic hardcore, locking arenas and swift-death-style mercilessness at every pass, both work for me :D

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Memfis said:

The problem with layouts is that the second area always sucks in comparison to the first. Because in the first area you can always place the player start in such a way that the monsters are attacking from multiple sides, there are no easily accessible safe places, etc. But then you make a second area and connect it to the first with some entrance, so of course the player will be able to camp from that entrance easily without exposing himself to crossfires.


Do you find that problem with every map you make, or with every map you play? Because you can use teleports, ledge dropoffs, tall lifts, or a monster closet that opens in the start after you leave the room to reduce players returning to player-created safe zones.

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It can be tricky to avoid camping scenarios, sure, but it's absolutely possible without resorting to the cliche of blocking bars in every doorway.

Height dropoffs (which can be done in so many different ways)
Nukage runs (whether putting nukage leading up to a setpiece area to keep the player in it, or by giving them a radsuit to limit their time spent in the setpiece area itself)
Teleporting the player to a new section
Teleporting monsters behind the player to chase them into a bigger fight
Putting needed supplies where the player can see them but can only get them by crossing the room and waking up monsters
Or just setting up the map so that it's more rewarding to play it fast and loose than it is to hang back and bore yourself to tears.

Many of these don't outright force the player to approach the fight in a certain way, but they'll give campers a rougher time, and if a player is deadset on not having fun, you can't do much to help them :)

edit: Orrrrrr basically what Ribbiks and 40oz already posted.

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I appreciate the responses everyone. If anyone has feedback on my map, I would greatly appreciate it. It is one of my first maps, so it is definitely imperfect.as of now, my main goal is improving map flow. Thanks!

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Angst929 said:

https://www.mediafire.com/?dj7a0dgfg480hzx

The map isn't totally complete, but I'd say it's probably 90% finished. It's an Aztec themed map inspired by Epic 2 and Serious Sam: TSE.


That file is 130mb???

As a general bit of mapping advice, if you are worried about your map being rooms and corridors, i'd suggest attacking the black space between the rooms to connect them more. This will also throw up possibilities for more routes to take and more angles to approach fights.

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It's a big file because I have a lot of custom textures that I borrowed from Deus Vult 2. Thanks for the advice.

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I had not thought to zip the file. My apologies. The reason why I haven't deleted unused textures is because the WAD isn't even close to finished. I will delete unused textures once the WAD is complete.

I can zip the file later and reupload.

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Okay, I have zipped the file and re-posted the URL in the OP. Its file size is down to 40 MB.

I hope this is more convenient.

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