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GoatLord

Why is no one talking about level design?

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For a second there I was about to say, WERE YOU READING OUR FORUM POSTS?!


The frustrating thing is people seem to think classic 90s shooter like doom = mindlessly running around shooting things and ultra violence

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Because the general public has gotten used to on-rails layouts and don't have the imagination to picture anything greater than that. Many newschool gamers (at least the ones I've talked to) have extreme trouble navigating anything more intricate than a cardboard box.

For example, I sat a CoD player down in front of Doom 1 a few years ago. He could barely navigate E1M1, and he couldn't even find the red keycard in E1M2. I realize that's probably on the worse end of the spectrum, but it doesn't give me much hope.

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potnop said:

The frustrating thing is people seem to think classic 90s shooter like doom = mindlessly running around shooting things and ultra violence


This x1000. Everywhere I go on the internet, there are people who think that Doom was nothing but demonic hordes and metal. They forget that there were levels in the original Doom that were also suspenseful, moody, and creepy as well. Phobos Labs is a good example of one. So are Deimos Lab and Halls of the Damned.

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The original Doom came out of that C-RPG world of dungeon mazes like Might & Magic, Ultima, Gauntlet, etc. Those may still be just as popular today given the number of roguelikes and titles like Etrian Odyssey and Legend of Grimlock out there (there's a lot on Vita and 3DS), but generally mazes and keys and secrets and all that aren't expected as much in FPS, especially since Call of Duty and Half Life became the standards. Call of Duty brings mission structure and team focus (military) and Half-Life brought the cinematic event-driven approach to things where it feels like you're exploring but you're really on a string of set pieces.

I think when graphics were more limited it worked well for mazes because you could use the same textures over and over. You weren't expected to put a ton of life-like detail into the scenery. Generally a maze isn't very lifelike unless it's like a literal corn maze or hedge maze or something. Doom's levels weren't strictly "mazes" but they were kind of abstract like that and I feel they came out of those designs from RPGs in the 80s. Wolfenstein 3-D even more so. (Or Catacomb 3-D?) But I do think this is essential to what made Doom great, so it's a shame it's not there in the new versions. In some ways the darkness of Doom 3 made it difficult to navigate (know where to go), but Doom 2015 isn't like that (apparently).

I think it'll still be good in the way that some of the more straightforward level designs in recent Id games are? Lost Missions, or other Tim Willits stuff (Episode 1 of Quake). But not that exploration-heavy. This doesn't mean the level design is bad per se. It may have a lot of clever things about it that have less to do with navigation or finding stuff but things we don't know yet.

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Why is no one talking about how cool it is that there's molten metal below and water on the floors?

Doom is a dungeon crawler shmup.

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Sodaholic said:

Because the general public has gotten used to on-rails layouts and don't have the imagination to picture anything greater than that. Many newschool gamers (at least the ones I've talked to) have extreme trouble navigating anything more intricate than a cardboard box.

For example, I sat a CoD player down in front of Doom 1 a few years ago. He could barely navigate E1M1, and he couldn't even find the red keycard in E1M2. I realize that's probably on the worse end of the spectrum, but it doesn't give me much hope.


We have games like Assasins Creed and GTA and Farcry and even Bioshock that are considered to be masterpieces by the average gamer, so I don't think gamers are too stupid to navigate complex environments. They love that stuff in those games.

I myself would never have been a fan of DooM if it had the gameplay of Serious Sam or Painkiller. I know because I'm not into those games and never got around to finishing them, although I did sort of have some fun playing them. I replayed Doom 3 like 5 times though even though I have random complaints here and there about how tedious it could be at times.

It's also why I had fun with Duke Nukem, Quake, etc... Yet when I play a game like CoD I feel like I have to force myself to finish it. And I don't have much fun replaying Halflife. I had a blast with HL2 the first time, but it just wasn't as good on later playthroughs.

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There aren't any texture misalignments, the levels aren't incredibly nonlinear where you spend 40 minutes wondering aimlessly through abstract levels only to find a health potion. Argh, we've been betrayed yet again!

*Boots up vanilla Doom*

Nobody understands Doom the way I do, I want everyone to share that opinion.

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Doom's level design can be chunky and ugly, but nostalgia for the way things were isn't what we're talking about here. Level design in general is a very basic aspect of game development and I want to know why it's not being addressed here.

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Because it's too early to talk about this topic. Remember that Doom 3's E3 presentation featured literally a railshooter, and the final game ended up having a bit of backtracking.

They are showcasing stuff here. They want to show you the graphics, the enemies and the guns, not the level design.

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The first level they showed looked common with the assets, like I've seen it before, played it before. Just with molten beauty beneath of it. The assets look clean and sterile, even perfect in a way that big money living on Mars could do. While watching it, I did feel like a lot of it was prefab with few exceptions, then low and behold there's a prefab map maker, which I'm okay and happy with.

It felt flat except for a few places you were forced to double jump to get to. I mention flat because that was a big complaint in games at some point how flat things looked.

Seeing different walkways under your own walkway had my mind thinking.... can I jump off to the molten metal, but before I hit it, double jump into a walkway beneath? Are they invisible walls or can I get in there?

It did look like there were multiple paths as if a broad layout that let you do what you want, but there are still doors and keys, with elaborate switches that need arms.

It will suck if you find a hand lock and you're in a room full of 100 bodies in some troll map. Plus why just that guy's arm why not the chainsawed soldier's arm? Would the Super Shotguner's arm unlock a secret if you keep the arm long enough?

As for Hell, it looked Yellow, like sulpher and real rather than the Doom I knew. It also felt like a big arena full of enemies that you descend into after going through a hall.

Hell looked real, like it wasn't prefab, like someone poured their heart and soul into it without being a paint by numbers map. It looked gritty, I loved the little fires. I started to wonder... I know how imps light the torches, but how do the torches get crafted? It was cool seeing all the dead bodies around the hallway of Hell. The Hellway.

One thing I did like with both maps was what's happening above your head. Caco demons flying in hell. Trams motoring through the molten metal factory.

I know I'm stuck on the molten metal thing, but it looks really cool, feels inventive and its a way to give light.... give an almost cramped space with walkways and not hallways and yet still be completely open, bright and beautiful.

I hope this helps quench level design talk.

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I really like the molten stuff and I think it adds some interesting variety to the techbase theme.

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I hope for some more non-linearity than what current fps games have offered. I also hope that the given map editor (or as doomworlders like to call it) map assembler, will feature an advanced mode so that you get access to the vertices or that we on PC get some real map editor then on top of it. Like someone somewhere already said. "It's gonna be weird if you cannot recreate e1m1 forexample with the editor that's given".

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quakke said:

I hope for some more non-linearity than what current fps games have offered. I also hope that the given map editor (or as doomworlders like to call it) map assembler, will feature an advanced mode so that you get access to the vertices or that we on PC get some real map editor then on top of it. Like someone somewhere already said. "It's gonna be weird if you cannot recreate e1m1 forexample with the editor that's given".


I hope you can take the prefabs and at least move their walls in with some sort of detailer. If not make an extra wall.

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quakke said:

I hope for some more non-linearity than what current fps games have offered. I also hope that the given map editor (or as doomworlders like to call it) map assembler, will feature an advanced mode so that you get access to the vertices or that we on PC get some real map editor then on top of it. Like someone somewhere already said. "It's gonna be weird if you cannot recreate e1m1 forexample with the editor that's given".


There's no way you'll have access to vertices. There are probably hundreds in a single wall.

It would be cool though to be able to assemble entire rooms out of some of the existing meshes though instead of working with a giant prefab for an already built room as if I was using an actual 3d editor like unreal or unity or cry engine. I wouldn't mind being able to import some meshes to make custom things.

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@Sergeant_Mark_IV you make a great point because I am fairly confident these levels aren't in the actual game considering how unpolished they look.

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Sergeant_Mark_IV said:

Because it's too early to talk about this topic. Remember that Doom 3's E3 presentation featured literally a railshooter, and the final game ended up having a bit of backtracking.

They are showcasing stuff here. They want to show you the graphics, the enemies and the guns, not the level design.


Back then linearity was also the new hot thing due to Half-Life popularizing it. So imo Doom 3 reveal cannot really be compared with this one since these games have very different goals. Where doom 3 tried to innovate the doom series as whole, Doom 4 is much like Unreal Tournament 4, going back to roots and aiming to return something rather than invent some unseen things.

potnop said:

There's no way you'll have access to vertices. There are probably hundreds in a single wall.

It would be cool though to be able to assemble entire rooms out of some of the existing meshes though instead of working with a giant prefab for an already built room as if I was using an actual 3d editor like unreal or unity or cry engine. I wouldn't mind being able to import some meshes to make custom things.


You just might be right with the vertex thing :( Atleast it's a possibility to receive that real editor then.

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Really, the map editor ought to let you do some rudimentary things to add curvature, multiple floors, cool "mappy" stuff.

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nicolas monti said:

Level design has been adressed in other posts, here is a leaked picture on coop:

a shcary rode


My girlfriend forced me to go on some carnival haunted house car ride. It was this vacant empty house with nothing inside. The biggest scare came when the ride operator snatched my water bottle halfway through the ride, because its on an electric track. He just appeared out of no where from behind, snatched it and disappeared.

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I hope we can see more creative environments, even if we're limited to scientific themes there's still a lot of possibilities; we've already got the rather unorthodox steel mill so hopefully we'll be able to go to some other rad places: Like a hydroponic garden full of croaking frogs, a residential area with appliances that can be tossed around by explosions, an unstable Martian glacier and a server room going haywire would all be great things to explore.

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Sodaholic said:

Because the general public has gotten used to on-rails layouts and don't have the imagination to picture anything greater than that. Many newschool gamers (at least the ones I've talked to) have extreme trouble navigating anything more intricate than a cardboard box.

For example, I sat a CoD player down in front of Doom 1 a few years ago. He could barely navigate E1M1, and he couldn't even find the red keycard in E1M2. I realize that's probably on the worse end of the spectrum, but it doesn't give me much hope.


I made a short 5 level wad for a college project which people were able to come in and play for themselves. A worrying amount of people couldn't figure out the first level which is incredibly simple to navigate. People I've sent it out to and a couple of people from the forum said nothing about it being too difficult to navigate, in fact saying it's rather simplistic to navigate.

In fact a couple of people thought the point where you aim is down where the gun is so they were aiming up to point the pistol at the enemies. I was in agony.

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SavageCorona said:

I made a short 5 level wad for a college project which people were able to come in and play for themselves. A worrying amount of people couldn't figure out the first level which is incredibly simple to navigate. People I've sent it out to and a couple of people from the forum said nothing about it being too difficult to navigate, in fact saying it's rather simplistic to navigate.

In fact a couple of people thought the point where you aim is down where the gun is so they were aiming up to point the pistol at the enemies. I was in agony.


These are first person shooters, not first person navigators. The first thing you do when you walk into a new place is check your map or look for a desk to ask for directions. Duh. *eye roll*

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I should point out I had printed out the maps and put them up on display for everyone to see, making it blatantly obvious where to go, as well as the automap.

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You have to wonder how open world games are so popular if people apparently have such poor spacial awareness.

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My theory is that GTA(4) and such are based on a grid layout city ala New York, both of which were meticulously designed by someone with OCD. Squares are much easier to navigate than the average Doom map.

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In open world games you don't really have to navigate. You usually have a waypoint of some sort, and as long as you go in it's general direction you won't get lost. Besides, many of those games have GPS systems making your entire path for you.

Doom maps are an entirely different beast. I remember a video by TotalBuiscit where he was going around a level of shadow warrior and talking about how the old FPS (doom and build engine games) were much better in terms of levels: you had to explore, find resources, etc. But "back in the day" people who played games generally had less choice and were less jaded about it and didn't mind having to work their brains juuuuust a tiny bit to pay attention to the layout of their environments, and such things. The designers at Id are probably fully capable of producing the kinds of levels that we crave, but they simply won't because that just might not fly in today's market. Although the tech level shown in the videos did in fact seem to have some branching paths that were left unexplored, and the hell level seemed rather open, so I'm not too worried about it actually. Although it's eerie how unlikely a situation where you have even just two directions to proceed further after a big fight seems.

Speaking of the "molten beauty", I hope that is only like one level. It looked way too funky and abstract to me at times, like the pools of molten metal were placed in a purely decorative fashion - which they were, by the level designers, obviously, but I'd prefer if it at least made SOME sense in-universe. Plus, while it's kind of obvious (when you think about it) that the mars base could definitely use a steel mill (surely they'd want to manufacture all that metal shit right there), it's way too specific a theme to last more than a level or two without becoming bothersome, IMO.... and as for hell, I dearly hope we get different color schemes in different levels. I'm not one of the people who want exclusively red skies because doom 1 and 2 had red skies in hell - in fact, Doom 64 for example has proven that blue and purple skies work just fine. The slightly brigher, yellowy wasteland from the trailer reminded me a LOT of Deadside from "shadowman" - which was incredibly atmospheric, if much more stylish than the hell level we saw (in Shadowman it was sort of a voodoo underworld, with structures made out of wood and skin and stone temples and such, among the rocky wastes under the yellow-green cloudy sky).

Also,

doom_is_great said:

This x1000. Everywhere I go on the internet, there are people who think that Doom was nothing but demonic hordes and metal. They forget that there were levels in the original Doom that were also suspenseful, moody, and creepy as well. Phobos Labs is a good example of one. So are Deimos Lab and Halls of the Damned.

I'll multiply this by another 1000.

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One thing that bothers me regarding level design is that using monsters as item pinatas means that map designers (seemingly) lose the freedom to use item placement as part of a level's identity. Things like the feast-and-famine approach from some of Sandy Petersen's maps, or placing items just out of reach to encourage players to cross the threshold into the center of a fight, are lost and things get just a bit more flattened out and homogenized. It's basically a regenerating health/ammo system, just presented a bit differently.

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I think if anyone was honestly expecting that aspect of the doom gameplay to stay intact, they were naive or delusional. Games are made today in a way that you can't usually screw yourself in the longer-than-immediate term. The action is more by the second in a way, spontaneous, much less tactical (as in, analyzing your surroundings beyond "where I can't dodge right now because there's a wall there").

To be fair, there definitely were health packs and armor bonuses pre-put in the techbase map. Of course they are probably convenient between-battle refills.

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