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40oz

How to get rid of Mapper's Block

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If you feel comfortable using your preferred Doom map editor but you're in some sort of a creative slump where you can't create anything good, or you're working on a map or a project that you're never going to finish, you may be experiencing a known condition called "Mapper's Block." Mapper's Block is akin to "Writer's Block." You may have felt an exciting creative drive when starting a new project. Now that you're in the middle of it, the excitement has died down and took your motivation to hell with it. Or maybe you feel completely tapped out of good ideas worth making maps out of, or maybe you have an "inner critic" that is reminding you that whatever your making sucks and is never going to be good, which is stopping you from getting anything done at all. Bottom line: you want to make maps, but something is stopping you from making progress.

This tutorial will share some of the many strategies to fight off these mental barriers that are keeping you from blessing the community with your kick-ass Doom maps. Depending on the circumstances, these strategies may or may not work for you. In order to achieve the best results, it's important to have a little faith that these are going to work. Embrace these strategies with an open mind and with the goal to achieve a positive outcome. Simply skimming through it and moving on to the next thing probably won't make map ideas blast out of your mind like a firehose. Nevertheless, these are some things you can try that have been said to help many people with their creative slumps and it's likely that some or all of these will help you too.

Listen to music.

Often when mapping in silence, the only thing you have to listen to is your own thoughts. Doomworld has been infamous for some of the snobbiest ungrateful communities ever, but for some people, their inner critic can be the meanest nastiest voices they'll ever hear from. Listening to music has often been said to be one of the strongest aids in creating maps that the mapper is satisfied with. Especially an album they've never listened to before. Albums you have listened to before can sometimes associate the listener with memories of the past which can (in some cases) hinder the process of creating something new. Sometimes listening to an audiobook or a podcast can keep the mind from talking itself into mapping career suicide when you only listen to the voices of someone else.

Get "in the zone"

Some people say that they're the most creative at 3:00 in the morning. When it's dark, you can't see as much which lends more to the imagination to fill in the blanks. You're also less likely to be distracted by noise or interrupted by unexpected guests when most of the world seems to be sleeping. John Romero once said he liked to dim the lights, light some candles, and get "in the zone" before he started making maps. So creating a workspace that's free from distractions should help with your mapping process. Clean off your desk, close your internet browser, disable any chat windows or other things that get updated constantly. Be alone with your map editor and your music, and if it's possible let people around you know that you need to be left alone for a few hours. A nice dark and quiet workspace will help you stay on track in your mapping.

Set a time limit

Mappers don't often brag about it but if you ask, I'm sure most people who have participated in speedmapping events will admit that they are pretty amazed with themselves about what they can create in such a short duration of time. The truth is, the pressure of time limits pushes you into a state of mind where you can't look back. You make whatever you're thinking about and there's no time to second guess how your map is coming along. Just roll with the punches and make the best with what you've got. When you have all the time in the world, you can bicker all day long on whether what your making looks good or is working or is going to be fun. This mode of excess thinking is what you're trying to escape from. Try getting a stopwatch, or an eggtimer or downloading an application that will alert you when time is up. Set goals for yourself to complete in that time frame, like getting a large functional layout done, or getting all your texturing, detailing and lighting done, or getting an entire map completed. Be realistic with your time, and don't set your standards to high. One or two hours is an appropriate amount of time to make a pretty strong progress dent in a map. It's okay to use two or three blocks of time on your map too if you think your map will benefit from it. But a good arbitrary time limit is a pretty good way to tell yourself your map is done and ready for release.

Planning your map

Very few people open up their doom editor with nothing in mind than "I want to make a map" and produce something they are really proud of. Just staring at the editor until something interesting comes out of you is going to be very exhausting. Whether you haven't started a map, or if you have an unfinished map that seems like it's going nowhere, doing some planning away from the editor will help tremendously. The part of the brain that visualizes ideas and the part of the brain that does the work to create those things are two different parts. Having to switch back and forth between those two parts can be mentally draining. I keep an idea pad at my desk where I jot down very loose ideas for map layouts. Getting drawings on paper as a guide for when you're using the editor takes a lot of weight off your mind. Focusing on layout designs and shapes for rooms rather than details leaves more room for innovation in the editor. Some people like to make drawings of what the start area should look like to immediately set the mood. I've also heard some people like to write in words, what the player should be doing ("Player starts in empty church, gets the red key, fights off hell knights, goes through red door, presses a switch that raises a bridge over a pit, crosses the bridge to exit") in order to produce a visualization in their head that's open to interpretation each time they read it. The point is that mapping isn't done as quickly as your mind generates images, so you should use your idea brainstorming part of your mind to create a reference for you to use. Then use your working utilitarian part of your mind to make it a reality when in front of the editor.

Take a break

Working full time on your mapping project can wear you out. It can be a lot of work and you will question why you started doing it in the first place. If you punish yourself to make maps all day, every day and nothing is coming of it, you'll instill negative feelings in your subconscious about mapping. It might help to stand up and get away from the computer. Take a walk outside, watch some tv, read a book. Do something for a good 20 minutes (at least) that takes your mind off your project and come back to it with a fresh new perspective. You might see opportunities in places that looked like dead ends before.

Switch Projects

If you're working on major project such as a one-man-megawad, your bite may be too big to chew. Working with your focus on one particular project that's been taking ages to develop might make you feel negatively whenever you start to work on it. You may be getting tired of the theme of the project, or constrained by its "rules" you created for yourself. It helps sometimes to simply put a pin in it and work on a side project. Think smaller, something much more manageable such as a single map. Something that you can get done within a reasonable range of time so as not demand too much of your time. The change of scenery will feel nice and at least finishing a small project and releasing it will be likely to get you some positive affirmation from other players and criticism that might benefit your other project on the whole.

Find a buddy

Doomworld may seem like it's rife with a bunch of arrogant turds. Many of us are only that way because the demand to be surprised and impressed is high and we want to look cool. The lighter side of us is hidden under a shadow of sarcasm and bitterness, but it's there if you're willing to look for it. Pick out someone who you think could make a good mentor, or someone who has skills comparable to yours. Look for someone who has the same interests you do, or is better at something you know you're not. Send them a private message complimenting their skills and ask if they'd like to look at your work. You're practically guaranteed to get a positive response. Exchange messages often about wads you like, or mapping problems you have. You may find that the doubts you have about yourself sound really silly when you know someone is about to read about them. And if they're not so silly, perhaps you can come up with a solution together. Having a friend who can be a cheerleader for your projects, or can compete with your mapping ability, or help you out with things you're unsure about can go a long way with prolonging your ability to continue mapping.

Change your mapping process

It's possible you may have developed a mapping process for yourself that is digging yourself in your own holes. If you make your maps from starting room to finish, try mapping from the exit room to the start, or from the middle of the map outwards. If you build your map one room at a time, try building the entire layout first and then detailing it later. Look at mapping as an opportunity to get out of your comfort zone. If you've only ever made techbases, try making a hell map. If all your maps are indoors, try making map outside with a lot of natural terrain. Throw some wrenches in your gears. If you have a map that seems like its going nowhere, try making a room where the ceiling is super tall, or a room where the lighting is super dark, and figure out a way to make it work naturally in your map. Sometimes that kind of weird juxtaposition can change the way you think about how you design your maps and open your mind up to new possibilities.

Play Doom!

It's important not to forget what the real reason for mapping is -- to prolong the fun and exciting adventure of Doom! You're supposed to be having fun! Level designers who make the best levels play Doom A LOT. It's important to keep up with the trends in the Doom community, play new wads and evaluate them. Keep a notepad nearby while you play. Pause the game and keep notes whenever something interesting that you've never experienced happen. Write down things you really thought were cool about the maps. Think about ways you would have made it even better. These notes will be excellent foundations to build your future maps from. It's okay to steal other people's ideas as long as you have the intentions of putting your own spin on it. But in general, playing Doom often will give you a strong feel for fun gameplay. Also playing a map on an easier skill level or with no monsters can help you take the time to look at the maps you play more analytically. You may find that some of the best mappers haven't created anything you're not capable of creating yourself. Play maps by mappers whose work you think you could reproduce. Take notice of how big or how small or how simple or complex the maps are. Use them as a reference points for your own maps!

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Thank you for making this, 40z. I've been experiencing mapper's block since I first started seriously making Doom levels (when the excitement I got from being 11 and thinking "OMG I CAN MAKE 3D LEVELS FOR A COOL GAME OMG" had died down). I'll make a really cool starting room, with windows looking into enticing areas, then I'll make a door and... nothing.
I suppose my subsconcious is just constantly telling me that nobody will ever really play the map and like it.

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Cool, now when people make threads and posts about mappers block we can simply link them this. Good work.

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Additional tip. Browse threads like these, and look for details that might inspire your own map. Even the less than awesome contributions sometimes hold a neat little idea that might spruce up your own layouts, if you look close enough:

Post your Doom picture!
https://www.doomworld.com/vb/doom-general/42866-post-your-doom-picture-read-the-image-posting-rules-in-the-faq/
(sadly, very many linkdead pics here now)

Post Your Doom Picture (Part 2)
https://www.doomworld.com/vb/doom-general/70830-post-your-doom-picture-part-2-read-the-image-posting-rules-in-the-faq/1/

what are you working on?
https://www.doomworld.com/vb/wads-mods/86372-what-are-you-working-on-i-wanna-see-your-wads/1/

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Wow! This had truly great words. I'd definitely recommend anyone who has Writer's Block play some Doom levels. Even if you already have before. Play through one episode, or multiple! For me in the past, I've gone through levels and thought "Oooooh this area right here just triggered a cool idea in my head for a future map!" Maybe it's the usage of multiple textures you've never thought of, maybe it's the design of a room (that's a common one for me), or maybe it just triggered a whole list of ideas! (that's a jackpot right there) Even playing different games might give you ideas! Take a step back and look at levels or areas in other games (or just from Doom) and see how that can influence your mapping!

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40oz, good post, it may really help! :)

Soundblock said:

Additional tip. Browse threads like these, and look for details that might inspire your own map. Even the less than awesome contributions sometimes hold a neat little idea that might spruce up your own layouts, if you look close enough:

Post your Doom picture!
https://www.doomworld.com/vb/doom-general/42866-post-your-doom-picture-read-the-image-posting-rules-in-the-faq/
(sadly, very many linkdead pics here now)

Post Your Doom Picture (Part 2)
https://www.doomworld.com/vb/doom-general/70830-post-your-doom-picture-part-2-read-the-image-posting-rules-in-the-faq/1/

what are you working on?
https://www.doomworld.com/vb/wads-mods/86372-what-are-you-working-on-i-wanna-see-your-wads/1/

And this is already helping, i normally go to these threads to look for inspiration :D

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Can I translate this article and publish it on the Russian forum? With proper credit and everything of course. I think it might inspire some people.

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