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Linguica

[Vanilla Level Editing] Lesson 13: Multiplayer Finishing Touches

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Previous lessons have covered all the major aspects of the way the DOOM world operates and have shown you those elements that can be manipulated with a WAD editor.

This lesson presents the additional considerations that need to be given to the design of WADs intended for more than one player to experience simultaneously, either in Cooperative play mode or as a Deathmatch arena.

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MULTIPLAYER MODES

The WAD that has been developed during the course of this episode has grown very much as a single-player WAD — it was designed principally with single-player use in mind. Many players of DOOM prefer to play in groups, rather than alone, either in Cooperative play, where they gang up on the monsters and solve the WAD’s puzzles together, or in Deathmatch, where the creatures and the puzzles can go hang. (Why frag a monster, when you can frag a friend?)

Each of these two types of multiplayer games have their own particular requirements and impose an extra layer of design criteria on the WADster.

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COOPERATIVE PLAY

Many single-player WADs can be immediately suitable for Cooperative play. All you may need to do is check that all four Cooperative starts have been added to your WAD. Monster and power-up ratios can often be left as they are. Your single-player testing should have ensured that there is little spare health or ammunition lying around. In Cooperative play, these resources have to go further — balancing out the additional ease with which the monsters may be dispatched.

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BATTLING COOPERATIVELY

Ironically, battles are often not easier for players in Cooperative mode — making sure their buddies don’t get caught in friendly fire means they have to take a little more care where they spray their lead. The additional slight hesitations that result can make all the difference to the player’s own survival.

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TRICKS AND TRAPS

One aspect of a game that changes totally as soon as there is more than one player at large in a WAD is the possible flow through its areas. Many flow-control features — such as those in and around the maze in the sample WAD — rely on knowing where the player is at the point that a trap is triggered, as well as where they have been beforehand. In Cooperative play, the location of other players when one springs a trap cannot be known or unpredicted. Some traps can become disastrous in Cooperative mode — again, just consider the implications of allowing more than one player into the sample WAD’s maze area, for example. The designer needs to give careful thought to the consequences for Cooperative play when adding traps and tricks to WADs.

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TACKLING PUZZLES COOPERATIVELY

The preceding comments apply to puzzles, too, of course. Puzzles that are difficult in single-player mode can become trivial in Cooperative play. The donut room in the sample WAD is a good example here. With a little modification, this room could be made into a puzzle that requires Cooperative play to solve it; by making it impossible for a single player to run from one of the switches to the lift or the door, the WAD suddenly needs two players to solve it. There is another little multiplayer twist that could be added here, too: Arrange for each teleport line around the donut’s center to deliver to different teleport destinations. Cooperative players may not always notice which side of this sector their buddies passed through in grabbing the key. When they try to follow, they could find themselves somewhere completely different! (This particular modification would also bring an interesting little twist to the single-player game, of course.)

Giving Cooperative players the need to work together as a team in this way can make play much more rewarding. It may also wreck the WAD as a single-player WAD, of course. You will need to decide which is more important to you.

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DEATHMATCH

Many of the points just discussed in relation to Cooperative play apply equally well to Deathmatch mode. In Deathmatch, however, the situation is complicated by the very different nature of the play. DM players will be less interested in solving puzzles, and are likely to have little patience for traps and tricks. First and foremost, these players will want to find each and start trading lead.

Deathmatch DOOM is used to provide a virtual-reality environment where players set their own targets (usually their buddies!) and their own objectives. The designer’s job here is to provide the environment but not the objectives. From this point of view, Deathmatch WADs can be easier to design and implement than single-player WADs. The designer does not need to consider flow or provide puzzles. Give the players a space to run around in, some weapons, and some ammo—and then leave them to it. If only it were that simple...

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DEATHMATCH DESIGN CONSIDERATIONS

Single-player WADs rarely convert well to Deathmatch scenarios. It is usually better, if you want to design for Deathmatch games, to concentrate on that aspect of a WAD’s design and develop a DM-only WAD. This prevents you from having to compromise both single- and multiplayer aspects, which is what usually happens with WADs intended to be used in either mode.

To put a good Deathmatch WAD together, you need to have an understanding of what makes a good Deathmatch arena. DM design can be every bit as challenging (and some would say much more rewarding) than producing a single-player WAD. Let us look at some of the more important points to consider if you wish to venture into this area of WAD design.

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BALANCE

The overriding requirement in any Deathmatch WAD is to provide and maintain balance. Keep things equal for each player — which is not to say that you must keep things the same for each player. Strive to ensure that no player gains an unfair advantage over any other or is unfairly disadvantaged in any way. Sacrifice all other aspects of the design before compromising this principle. If you get this aspect of your design right, most players will forgive all of its other shortcomings. If you get it wrong, your WAD will probably be consigned to a black hole somewhere.

Keep this warning in the back of your mind as you consider the main design features of your WAD.

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THE PLAYING SPACE

The playing space of a Deathmatch WAD needs to be given a lot of thought. As already stated, DM players like to get into action quickly. They also like to be able to ambush each other and to be capable of disappearing and reappearing suddenly in other places. This creates a number of design requirements and possibilities.

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INTERCONNECTIONS

Deathmatch WADs must dispense with the largely linear design that can often benefit single-player WADs. You should provide geography that enables your players to move around in a large number of ways. Provide lots of interconnections between the areas of the WAD, but keep the interconnections short to enable players to travel through them quickly.

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HEIGHT VARIATION

Try to keep your thinking away from the purely horizontal — use variations in height levels to produce areas which allow plentiful ambush spots and make players keep their eyes open. (Take a look at DOOM’s E1M4 for a good example.) Again, use short interconnections between the various levels. Use steep stairs and lifts rather than gradual level changes down long corridors. Provide players with an interesting and varied hunting ground.

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RANGE

In planning the extent of a Deathmatch WAD, keep the players’ range in mind. DM players are unlikely to want to spend much time exploring the WAD itself. They will want to be able to appraise the immediate area quickly, grab some weapons, and then go in search of their opponents. Few players enjoy trudging for miles before they catch sight of anything.

Remember, though, that DOOM can support up to four players at once. Games with three or four players may need a bigger playing area than games with only two. And, of course, the more familiar players become with the geography, the smaller it will start to seem to them.

If it is a large WAD, you might want to place all of your DM starts fairly close together, so that everyone starts out in the same general area. You can then lay out some (similar strength) weapons in a way that draws the players together. Once they have located their opponents, players can decide for themselves whether they want to enter the fray right away or spend time hunting out some different weapons.

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HIDING PLACES

The provision of hiding places is an important consideration in the design of Deathmatch WADs. Provide plenty of them (the interconnections of a DM level can be helpful here). Be careful, though. Secure hiding places overlooking exposed areas (particularly ones that players are forced to cross) encourage players to spend their time here in the hope of picking off their opponents in safety. Such features make for boring (or frustrating) play.

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OPEN SPACES

Open spaces are useful for the exposure they can bring to players crossing them. Do not make them too large, though, or you make it impossible for the exposed player to work out where distant and better-hidden players are firing from.

Make sure that open spaces do not work in favor of particular starting positions. It is often a good idea to aim for a fairly symmetrical map layout, with the open spaces in the center. DM regeneration locations can then be positioned in similar areas around the edges of the map, and all players will need to cross the central spaces to hunt the others. Be careful though that such areas do not prevent regenerated players from getting back into the game.

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CHOICE OF TEXTURES

When choosing textures for walls in WADs intended for Deathmatch play, remember that each player is given a different colored suit: green, brown, indigo (black, actually), and red. Take care not to give any one player an unfair advantage by using textures against which they can hide — or placing them at a distinct disadvantage by having them conspicuous wherever they go.

The indigo player is virtually invisible against the ASHWALL texture, for example. The green player has a decided advantage against the marble wall textures — which the red player will hate.

Keep players’ colors in mind as you design your WAD, and try to vary the surfaces so that you have no single overall color scheme. If you want areas that are predominantly one color, try to balance the WAD by providing areas that offer similar advantages to each of the other players.

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OTHER MAP FEATURES

Elements of the map that a designer of single-player levels takes for granted can gain new significance in Deathmatch WADs. Many standard features need to be reappraised if they are to be used successfully.

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DOORS

Many Deathmatch players dislike the presence of doors, because they slow progress from one area to another. They also signal a player’s whereabouts through the sounds they make as they open and close. Certainly you should not include doors simply for the sake of the appearance of your WAD. They can be a useful feature, however, because of the risk that players can face from opening them.

You could provide a choice of tactic by connecting the same areas in different ways — a short interconnection using a door and a longer one without, say. Players can then either take the longer route quietly or risk signaling their presence to any opponents within earshot by taking the shorter one. Such arrangements also enable doors to be used as decoys and distractions; a player could open the door and then run around the long way in the hope of fragging from behind any opponents on the other side of the door.

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KEYED DOORS

The presence of keyed doors is of complete irrelevance to DM players who always start out with all necessary key-cards in their possession. This feature can also be used to aid in the adaptation of a single-player WAD to Deathmatch use: If a WAD does not utilize one of the three colored keys in its single-player mode, then that color becomes available to supply an additional series of doors that only DM players can open. These extra doors can be used to bypass areas of the map that are unsuited to Deathmatch play or simply to provide extra connectivity, breaking up the enforced linear flow of the single-player game.

If you do use such a feature, you should not use the appropriate color coding by the side of the door to indicate that a key-card is required to open it. This would confuse single players who will think there is still a key somewhere for them to find. Instead, use the DOORSTOP texture to suggest to the single player that the door is merely decorative. (Although, of course, DOOM will tell them otherwise if they try the door — as most players will!)

An alternative way of preventing single players being confused by these doors is to provide them with the extra key once the WAD has been completed in the “prescribed” manner. The interconnections provided by the door might as well be used in the single-player game too, rather than leaving it as just so much wasted space.

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TELEPORTS

Teleports are great devices for improving the interconnection of areas in Deathmatch WADs. Remember, though, that the sound and sparkle of a teleport in operation are conspicuous to other players. You may want to vary the exposure of teleport destinations with the skill level of the game by placing the lower skill-level teleport landings behind alcoves in the destination sector, for example.

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DAMAGING SECTORS

Areas with harmful special characteristics or crushing ceilings tend to be unpopular with DM players. Many feel that these features get in the way of Deathmatch play. Newer versions of the game have addressed the problem of suicides, but it is generally best to remove the temptation by keeping damaging areas in a Deathmatch WAD to a minimum.

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DECORATIONS AND OBSTACLES

Decorations and obstacles can be used in Deathmatch WADs much the same way as in single-player games. Their use is governed by more or less the same rules. DM-only obstacles can be used to convert parts of a single-player WAD for DM play by blocking off areas that would not work well in multiplayer games. Make sure that areas that need to be blocked off have the obstacles properly placed and that players cannot work their way around their edges, or just bludgeon their way through.

Remember not to use barrels as such obstacles—they can be quickly disposed of! Also remember that barrels do not regenerate in -altdeath play. Generally, though, barrels can be employed much as they can in single-player games: to make areas more hazardous and to discourage players from hiding around particular corners.

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SPECIAL FEATURES

As is the case with standard map elements, many of a WAD’s special features need to be reappraised for Deathmatch use. DM WADs generally do not benefit from some of the features used to enliven single-player WADs but need their own particular kinds.

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PUZZLES, PROBLEMS, AND TRAPS

As already noted, Deathmatch players rarely have the patience to solve puzzles and problems, whether to make progress through a room or to obtain the items they might be interested in (their weapons and ammunition). Traps that are intended to catch individual players can become a nuisance in Deathmatch WADs. Either keep such traps out altogether, or, again, if you’re aiming for a multi-purpose WAD, make sure there are alternative ways around the traps for DM players.

Single-player WADs can also cause traps for DM players unintentionally. Doors that single players could only approach from one side may not have an opening mechanism from the other side. These doors will bar the exit of DM players who regenerate on the wrong side of them. If you lock your players in areas where there is nothing for them to do except wait until someone comes along and frags them, they are unlikely to be very impressed!

It is probably a good idea to make sure that every door can be operated from both sides (unless this defeats the design of the single-player game, of course — but then there should be another exit anyway), even though there may seem to be some redundancy in this from the single-player point of view.

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SECRET AREAS

Whereas single-player games commonly have the majority of the goodies tucked away in secret locations, this is usually a bad idea in Deathmatch WADs. This can give any player who has a greater familiarity with the layout of the WAD a major advantage over the others. If you hide weapons, for example, the player who has played the WAD before will know where to dash to grab them all before the other players have even oriented themselves. Newcomers to the WAD will quickly become bored with it if they are fragged over and over again while they spend time hunting for a weapon so that they can join in against their more experienced colleagues.

While it can be argued that prior knowledge will always be to a player’s advantage, this can be minimized by placing in plain view everything that is available. This doesn’t mean that obtaining all items has to be easy — only the finding of them.

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SIGNALS

Many DM players like features that signal the location of their opponents. This can be something as simple as the operation of doors and lifts giving audible signals, and the glitter and fizz of a teleport (or regeneration event). Or it can involve more complex arrangements, such as trips in one area triggering events in another — turning the lights on and off in one area to warn of a player in another, or the triggering of remote lifts, for example.

These features enable players to assess the whereabouts of their opponents and to plan interceptions, ambushes, or just a good old-fashioned chase to gain their frag. If you want to demonstrate your abilities as a DM WADster, dispense with single-player traps and tricks and aim for these sorts of features instead. Be aware, though, that they do tend to favor the more experienced players of your WAD. Once again, make them obvious, so that players with a knowledge of your WAD’s features do not gain an unfair advantage over the newcomers.

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OBJECT PLACEMENTS

The laying out of objects in a Deathmatch WAD is far more critical than it is in a single-player WAD. It is crucial that you keep an eye open for any imbalance you might be creating as you dis- tribute items through the level. Don’t have single, large caches of items such as weapons or health, as you might in a single-player WAD, or you could end up in a situation where one player will begin near a weapons cache, another gets the armor, while the third begins in the middle of nowhere with only a pistol and some useless Stimpacks.

Again, a symmetry of design can help here, enabling you to present each player with a similar array of objects wherever he or she starts.

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STARTING POSITIONS

Deathmatch games can have up to 10 DM Start/Regeneration positions per difficulty level. Make sure that you have at least four, or DOOM will not be able to start a four-person session with your WAD. It is recommended that you use all 10 DM start positions so as to provide a greater variety of starting conditions for your players, and to make the restart process less predictable.

As previously noted, the shimmer of a player’s DM regeneration is conspicuous to the other players, and you may want to take this into account when you position the DM start positions. Unlike the single and Cooperative player starts, you can use the skill-level flags of DM rebirth positions to change their locations with the difficulty level of the game. Use this to shelter the regeneration of players using the lower skill settings, or to place them nearer to available weapons or armor.

In positioning regeneration spots, don’t forget to allow your players to get back up to a reasonable strength quite quickly. If you don’t do this, you will unfairly favor the players who make the early frags. Let regenerated players back into the game quickly, or you will find that they tend to leave for good!

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WEAPONS AND AMMO

Acquiring weapons and ammunition will be the principal goal of most DM players—when not ac- tually fragging the opposition, that is. Don’t get carried away with the weapons that you make available to DM players, though. Most players will want something more powerful than the pistol fairly quickly, but you should limit the power of what you provide.

A popular tactic is to make a shotgun readily accessible from all DM start positions. There should be greater risk involved in reaching more serious weapons, such as the chaingun and rocket launcher. (Risk, in DM terms, usually means exposure, of course.) Weapons such as the chainsaw can be made available, too. The very powerful weapons such as the plasma guns — and the rocket launcher, some would argue — should only be available at the lower difficulty settings of the game, if at all (and preferably only then at considerable risk to the player). These weapons quickly destroy any balance the WAD had by making long-distance or indiscriminate kills too easy.

Similarly, ammunition needs to be distributed carefully in Deathmatch WADs. Keep players on the move to hunt for ammunition by spreading it around the WAD in small quantities. Additionally, limit the players’ ability to stockpile ammunition by depriving them of Backpacks. This will prevent a player who has a plentiful supply of ammo from settling down in a good ambush spot and just picking off everyone who appears.

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MONSTERS

Monsters serve a very different purpose in Deathmatch WADs from the roles they play in single- and Cooperative player games. Many players prefer to have no monsters in the way while they stalk their buddies; others like to have monsters around — as a supply of weapons and ammunition! The presence of monsters also provides additional signals for players. They can act either as lookouts for carefully positioned players, or, more usually, will provide clues to the whereabouts of other players through the noise and flashes of combat.

It is largely a matter of personal preference whether you use monsters or not. Use them in limited quantities, though, and confine yourself to the weaker types. The principal players should not find themselves upstaged by appearances of Cyberdemons and such. Use monsters only to make the main play a little trickier, or to provide a steady stream of ammunition.

As always, aim to keep things balanced, making sure that no particular start position will subject a player to more (or less) than his fair share of monster encounters. Players will not take kindly to finding their opponents have been waiting, weapons at the ready, while they fought their way past the hordes of Hell. Nor will the other players be happy to be robbed of their rightful frag if the hordes win!

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