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Arena Fights

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I've read some people comment on Doom 2016's gameplay being kinda repetitive with the arena fights where you enter into a large 'skatepark' area, doors shut, you're locked in and monsters start spawning and you can't leave until everything is dead. Different strokes for different folks I suppose because, personally, I had the most fun with the game when those events happened. Much more than when I was exploring and there would be a couple zombies or imps wandering around.

As a result I'm finding myself more likely in my normal Doom mapping to lure players into an area and use linedef actions either to close doors or activate monsters at the exits to keep him where I want them and as a result, I have a lot more fun playing with it than the usual exploratory layouts with fodder that people pepper their maps with.

I've read some people recognize that formula in Ancient Aliens and I think some of Ribbiks work has been criticized to be that way too. Press switch; something happens. Pickup item; something happens. etc. etc.

I really enjoy that choreographed gameplay a lot more than just entering areas that happen to be inhabited by monsters. I think it's an adrenaline rush in places where its necessary and too chaotic when it's not like that. In fact, big or dangerous monsters that happen to just be hanging out in hallways or in small rooms are humongous missed opportunities IMO. Why make the player kill a mancubus alone? Make him snipe at you while you're fighting pinky demons in your face instead. Sometimes when I see monsters that are easy to kill and just consume time (unless stalling the player is necessary for something that's going on in the background) I feel as though they might as well not be there at all. Sometimes no monsters has the effect of making an area feel more ambient or suspenseful, which is good for making the player more alert when the hard stuff happens.

I don't know if people have negative feelings toward the "arena fight" style gameplay itself, but rather they dislike understanding a formula that can be expected or too predictable.

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My most general term for this sort of gameplay is "encounter" - some people use "setpiece" although that sortof carries with it a connotation that there should be a gimmick (visual and/or gameplay gimmick). An "encounter" to me just needs to be something that requires some effort of the player (target prioritization, navigation, perhaps decision making on how/when/where to attack the area). The easiest method for making good encounters is using height variation imo, most mappers do this automatically I think and haven't broken it down into elements with vocabulary words. But yeah if the player needs to ride a lift or stairway to get that good angle on the revenant, while cacos are pouring through openings at various heights, meanwhile on your journey to the revenant the way is congested with pinkies - that'd be an "encounter". The lazy thing to do is make monster sperched on ledges or behind a 2-sided iron bars linedef at various heights on the wall, but I'd rather have that laziness than be stuck on a map where every enemy is on the same plane as the player.

In regards to doom4, virtually all combat was in this encounter style, with some fodder in between for you to regenerate health by glory killing, so you are ready for the next encounter. Not all were locked arenas though, but yeah the vast majority were. I agree that it was great fun, but I also agree with the people criticizing because it makes the player feel less in control, more like a rat in a cage being studied and experimented upon. It takes some of the decision making and strategy out of the players' hands (only one door in, one door out), and it's predictable and unavoidable. It's the hallmark of a designer wanting that totally choreographed experience, they don't want the player to be able to "door-cheese", or lure enemies away, or have other enemies wander in unexpectedly, and so on. It's also a bit of engine limitation, since the models and AI are too complex to stock the doom4 maps full of enemies so they need to be spawned in as the player progresses - which is another player criticism, the linearity and arena battles dont hide this limitation and make it obvious that you're only ever going to fight 10-15 enemies in a curated/approved/quality-tested manner.

That said, each doom4 arena has as much area/content/replayability as your average Scythe or Ksutra map imo. I sorta wish they went with much smaller maps filled with enemies, rather than sweeping masterpieces with enemies spawned in at key points.

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Arena fights of the spawn monsters bit by bit and lock the player in until everything is dead have been overused for years in gaming which explains some of the distaste people have with it. In an universe like Doom you might get away with it, however in other more realistic shooters it can hurt immersion. The mechanic itself becomes associated with so many negative experiences it's hard to break out of the mindset.

Personally, I see important distinctions in arena fights:
- between a room that is impossible to exit before every monster is dead, and an exit that is just hard to reach; the former forces you into a particular style of play and (subjectively) feels highly artificial, the latter puts control back into my hands as a player ("even though I might not be able to pull it off, even though nobody might be able to pull it off, there IS the possibility to avoid this encounter").
- between monsters streaming consistently anywhere in the room, and monsters coming at once or in just a few definite intervals from specific points; the former forces you in a strategically passive role as you must consistently react to new threats, whereas the latter lets you plan your moves for efficient crowd control.

There's nothing wrong with using even the constant spawn + hard lock type of fight occasionally, but it can be overused to the point every encounter becomes a simple repeat of what came before.

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In general, a good arena fight feels like a special event rather than something mundane. Of course it will feel a lot more special if you haven't encountered any arenas for several maps already. Or if it came truly unexpectedly. Or if the setup is somehow very unique.

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I find myself often planning 90%+ of monster placement in maps as "ecounters;" I suppose for me it just comes down to more fluidity in encounters than in shooting galleries. With an encounter, no matter the size or scale, monsters can come from anywhere, at any time, even right in front of you when you enter a room, ironically enough, heh. To me, pre-placed monsters, present when the player enters an area, are supplementary to the coming battles and traps. The one caveat is repopulation, I'm totally fine with monsters pre-placed (really just teleported in) in a series of rooms after I've already cleared them.

Specific lock-in arena set-ups though, those can be over-used. Gotta balance things out.

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