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Mappers vs Players brainstorming

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I used to play a bit of Starcraft as a kid and having been young and bad at it, I always used cheat codes to win. Out of curiosity I decided to have a look at some starcraft videos, competitions between the best players, and was really impressed with how balanced the game is. Every race has its advantages and disadvantages, all their units have different attributes (not clearly defined) regarding their mobility, their firing rates, their damage per minute, height advantages, defensive sustainability and attack practicality. I was impressed how at the clash of the two players optimizing all the resources the game allows them to use, the game doesn't simply devolve into each opponent exploiting their most powerful units against each other. Instead, their effective strategies vary, usually employing a variety of units at once and engaging their opponent in unpredictable ways.

The more I watched I felt that the strategies employed with building an army and conquering the enemy has a very obvious correlation to the way Doom mapping can be, in which the level designer gets to place monsters on the map strategically in a way they feel will be most challenging/fun for the player. The main difference between a game like Starcraft and mapping for Doom is that Starcraft has rules that control how often, how fast, and how many units and structures you can build, where Doom mapping is limitless in how large you want to make your map, and how many monsters you choose to use, and how much resources you choose to provide.

In Doom, there is competition among players, via deathmatch and capture the flag and other game modes. There is also single player speedrunning competition among players where they try to beat each others times. In mapping there is competition among mappers by who can make the bigger, harder, more fun, or better looking map. Both these fields of competition have created a very strong community and both styles of competitions have enabled the upper-echelons of better players and better mappers to obtain internet fame in the Doomworld community.

If only there were a way in which the best mappers could be pitted against the best players and compete against each other by trying to best each other with the skill sets they both feel most comfortable with. The mappers design the most difficult level they can come up with, while the players work together to record a demo of them completing it. The problem of course, is that despite the craziest meticulous speedrunners recording demos of them completing seemingly impossible levels, mappers will always have the upper hand, because there are too many factors they have control over that make a level unable to be completed, even if the map has an exit.

The mapper can use inescapable pitfalls, rooms that can be entered but not exited, inescapable crushing ceilings, monster spamming in close proximity, make the entire map completely dark, put no weapons, health, ammo, or armor in it, etc. etc.

However, I believe that mapping under a set of structured rules that limit what the mapper is able to do to the player can balance the two parties. Rules that if broken, disqualify the map from the competition. Rules that serve only to complicate the process of controlling the players fate. These rules would enable the mappers to use adversity against their players under the conditions that they provide things that work to the players advantage.

My ideas for these rules are very cloudy and while my mind is sort of lingering at the foundation of the way these rules would be layed out, I find myself spitballing the plausibility of things like "the monsters hit points must be less than the minimum amount of damage the provided weapons and ammo can deal." The mappers may have to be required to use a template map and only be allowed to control monster placement. I'm also thinking of calculating a score system in which certain items such as health and ammo provide benefits to the player, measured in points, and other items, such as monsters or partial invisibility have negative effects, which are measured in negative points. These points would also have to account to the average space covered in damaging floor, and the average light level, and perhaps linedef types that positively or negatively effect the difficulty a player would have at completing the map. The objective of course is for mappers to keep their score above zero for it to be not be disqualified. I imagine something like a modified version of WadSpy or WadWhat could assist in measuring these scores.

I'm curious to hear how you might go about constructing a set of rules that will fairly balance a mappers abilities to slow and/or stop the players from winning against the players abilities to complete a level.

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A massive issue would be playtesting. If a mapper were to create a map to challenge a player, chances are the mapper would have to test the map to the point of exhaustion to make sure everything runs correctly, especially when any form of scripting or linedef actions are involved. The mapper would be able to play the map blind folded by that point.

However if the Mapper was proven to be only possess skills of a casual to moderate Doomer then he can be challenged to make a map he would consider very challenging or almost possible for him to beat and then challenges a proven elite Doomer on this map of his. It would be interesting to see if the mapper of lower skill and knows what to expect can still manage to perform better than an elite player who must both think and react faster. Honestly though, it sounds way too hard to measure and compare skillsets to do this accurately.

An alternative method could be:

Mapper creates the entire map with no monster placement however he can actively choose to create traps like corridor ambushes. Meanwhile the challenging player can choose what type and how many monsters is to be placed in the map (with some form of restrictions provided on how many monsters the map can reasonably support) and a third party mapper who isn't part of the challenge will place the player's choice of monsters within the challenging mapper's level as he sees fit, but obviously make use of the pre-made ambushes in some way.

The Player can't ever see the map in this process, it all must be played fresh. The Mapper can only create the level but be ignorant of the monster placement just like the player.

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