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h.brick

How to make decorating maps suck less?

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Hey. I am close to finishing a death match WAD with 8 maps. Structurally the maps are pretty much complete. Now comes the decorating.

Holy cow. When I started this thing, I had no idea decorating would be this difficult or time consuming. I'm not trying to make the next Gothic99 but I also can't have 8 maps of plain brown default textures.

It occurs to me that I have successfully composed a bunch of maps, but I've never successfully decorated them. So I ask:

What tips would you have to make decorating suck less? I know it won't be easy, but I'm kind of running like a headless chicken when it comes to decorating.

What advice would you give a newbie decorator? Anything to make decorating go snoother--or to make my maps look better? I'll take any advice you can offer.

Thank you!

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Well, I dunno if it will make it any less tedious, but things players love to see in maps are:

· Computer panels in tech bases

· Windows to an "outside world" giving the map a much more immersive feel

· Corpses hung about in hellish areas (Make sure they aren't blocking though!)

· Some people enjoy custom texture packs, and it gives you a lot more themes to choose from


Depending on what source port you're using, gradient lighting always adds a really nice touch. Maybe some cages containing corpses or flames along the walls, where thematically appropriate. Make sure the color choices work well in each room, and try not to leave anything looking too bare, for example long stretches of wall with no decor.

The thing that will make this "suck less" is seeing how much more satisfying your map is to play in after it's been prettied up a bit. Detailing does not need to be intensive, but especially in Deathmatch mapping, it's a way to give your mapset it's own unique flare and feel.

Hope this helps!

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From my own tiny experience, I would say : watch and learn from wads like Alien Vendetta.

Helped me a lot to improve the level of detail of my maps (which is still not that great somehow but improved a lot after studying such wads).

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h.brick said:

Hey. I am close to finishing a death match WAD with 8 maps. Structurally the maps are pretty much complete. Now comes the decorating.

Holy cow. When I started this thing, I had no idea decorating would be this difficult or time consuming. I'm not trying to make the next Gothic99 but I also can't have 8 maps of plain brown default textures.

It occurs to me that I have successfully composed a bunch of maps, but I've never successfully decorated them. So I ask:

What tips would you have to make decorating suck less? I know it won't be easy, but I'm kind of running like a headless chicken when it comes to decorating.

What advice would you give a newbie decorator? Anything to make decorating go snoother--or to make my maps look better? I'll take any advice you can offer.

Thank you!


You should consider doing some minimum level of texturing and architectural design when you are first building the areas.

Sprucing up areas that solely consist of default textures is probably going to suck unless you have patience to work that way.

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Like Squadallah said, look at how other authors made their maps and identify things you can take away from it. How they build individual pillars, how they place torches in alcoves or not, how they layer their ceiling or if it's not layered at all. Each section of detail is made of pieces, try to find what each of those individual pieces are. Then comes making your own, and fitting them together. I like to insert marbface into walls in such a way you never get more than 128 units without some sort of indented or projected detail. Or torch alcoves with a grate, without a grate, with a transparent midtexture etc. Etch rivers of water or lava or nukage into your flat floor.

Some people can make really interesting and pleasing areas with simple shapes and good texture usage, while others create layered architecture that looks really cool. Some can do both in the same map, even the same area. It just takes (a lot) of practice and time. As you practice you'll find ways to speed up detailing. Like I've found with vanilla textures, support3 makes a nice 16 wide METAL beam by x axis offsetting the texture by 4. Or that METAL makes a decent 64x64 teleport pad edge. Or that the top row of GSTONE tiles vertically at ... I think 24units? So you can make decent steps out of it, or a pile of marble blocks. A really easy rule is to find textures that fit the lengths of your lines, not the other way around. It forces you to make architecture of that length, but it looks much better than just making something and slapping textures on it and calling it done.

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ArmouredBlood said:

Or that METAL makes a decent 64x64 teleport pad edge.

I find that the very top/bottom of WOODMET1 works far better for this.

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Jaxxoon R said:

I find that the very top/bottom of WOODMET1 works far better for this.

I said decent, I don't use vanilla textures much anymore so I called back on what I remembered from years ago heheh.

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One concern, with deathmatch maps especially, is to ensure that any extra decorative geometry doesn't interfere with the player's movement. Doom's physics system is pretty finicky, and it's easy to create details that the player can get caught on or bounce off at weird angles (a significant problem with diagonal walls). With that in mind:

  • Indented decorations - e.g. alcoves, niches, lighting strips - are a good way to add visual interest to walls without intruding into the play space. Many of the original doom textures have details you can 'drill out' with sectors to make them physical.

    By contrast, pillars and other trim details that stick out of the walls are easy for the player to get caught on. You can mitigate this by e.g. placing impassable lines between pillars so the player can't slip into the space between them, but that isn't always a good option.

  • Ceiling details - e.g. skylights, supporting beams, lighting panels, overhangs, fences along the top of walls - are a great way to add interest to otherwise 'dead' space. Anything over the player's head is fair game, since it's too high up to interfere with gameplay. Ceiling geometry also helps compensate for Doom's limited selection of flat textures.

  • Floor details work best when there are large consistent changes in elevation (e.g. staircases) or small indentations that are too narrow for the player to drop into them (e.g. missing floor tiles, channels of liquid).

    By contrast, bumps that stick out of the floor will cause the camera to jolt up and down as the player moves over them, which is distracting and even nauseating.

  • Animated textures (like waterfalls and fire) and lighting (like flickering or strobing) are a cheap way to add visual interest to an area and to draw the player's attention. Use them in moderation though, as they can make an area look noisy or chaotic from a distance.

All other things being equal, I find large chunky detail more interesting than fine fiddly detail. Large details give an area more of a sense of scale and of volume. For instance:
  • A large open skylight can make a room feel vast and airy, and is a good excuse for sharp contrasts between light and dark.

  • Sky in general opens up the space and helps sell the idea of a world outside the confines of the gameplay area. Have an outside courtyard? Put some antennas or watchtowers or hellish totems out beyond the walls.

  • Large columns will alternately block and reveal parts of the area as the player moves past, through and around them. That kind of thing can add a lot to the player's impression of depth, and simply preventing the player from seeing and 'understanding' all of a space at once will encourage them to explore that space more attentively.

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