Multiplayer Projects; Starting out, feedback, game modes

So you want to make a new project for multiplayer Doom. That's great! But you might not know where to begin or what is important to do in this endeavour. This guide is meant to help you start (and end) this process smoothly.

I will cover the following:
- Ports
- Game modes
- Flags/Settings
- Mapping basics (later)
- General Advice

Ports
Why ports first? Because the rest of the post will frequently refer to ports or ports in particular, so it's useful to know what they are and why it's important to know what port you want to deal with. Some people might cry foul and say "BUT DECAY PORT XYZ FEEEEEEEEEEEEEEELS MORE LIKE DOOM" to which I say "I don't give a shit." Download all the ports and determine which one you like best. Each port has a series of COMPATIBILITY flags to more closely emulate vanilla Doom. Enable those (or not) and see how you like it. The best way to get a feel for a port is by a) playing capture the flag for a while b) playing deathmatch for a while and c) playing DUEL often. Make your own decision on what port you like.

There are 3 primary multiplayer source ports. They are Odamex, Zandronum, and Zdaemon. You may see other ports referred to in multiplayer contexts such as Chocolate Doom, Zdoom, GzDoom, but outside of individually set-up games, they are not played by 99% of the playerbase for multiplayer purposes. It is best to ignore them (for multiplayer) and focus on the 3 previously mentioned.

Odamex http://odamex.net/

Odamex is the port that claims to be the most oldschool. It has the fewest amount of players and sees activity mostly in the form of events such as Nitro (maybe, we will see), and the WDL (a capture the flag league). Therefore, activity is sporadic at best. To get a DM going, you need to call people, and as far as I can remember, team games are incredibly hard to start (because it requires 4 people at least!). During WDL off-seasons when activity is least, one can still pick up on duels with relative ease.

Odamex, from a mapping standard, supports the least amount of features as well. It is based on (I believe) CSDoom and draws on an additional zdoom 1.22 version. While it supports Zdoom (Doom in Hexen) mapping formats, it does not support ALL the features it offers. There may also be discrepancies between what is support properly online and offline. Wads played are more "classic" in the sense that they do not require any special features. Complex wads requiring scripts, DECORATE, certain actor types, and mods are unsupported. IMPORTANT: Does not support UDMF formats, pk3 files.

Correction made: new information indicates Boom format features are functioning properly online and offline. Should an obscure feature not work as intended, it is best to check in with someone more knowledgeable of the port.

Odamex is currently stagnating in development. It's best feature to utilize would be on-the-fly wad-switching, which allows servers to host multiple wads without them overlapping each other. This is beneficial for map naming conflicts, texture override priorities, and palette issues.

Overall:
Population - sporadic, small and niche.
Port future - stagnant like it has been since 2012
Port features - basic

Zdaemon (ZD) http://zdaemon.org
Zdaemon has a long history associated with it and has a decent playerbase. However, upon watching the servers recently, this population is primarily a cooperative/survival population. One can find a regular deathmatch game with 2-4 people, but it seems the days of 24/7 zdctf are over (finally).

Mapping support: Supports a heck of a lot more than Odamex. I don't think it support UDMF format yet but I might be wrong on this count. PK3 File support is not there either. Supports most features of Zdoom (Doom in Hexen) and Boom. It's zdoom base is 1.23b I BELIEVE I may be wrong. Nonetheless it is a very old version of zdoom. Many long time players here believe this to be the standard or "vanilla" when really it isn't. Zdaemon is closed source and thus most people do not know what is truly in the inner workings.

Overall:
Population: Consistent but shrinking
Port future: other than Survival/Cooperative, slowly dying. Thursday Night Survival is always packed though.
Port Features: More comprehensive, but still limited

Zandronum (ZAN) http://zandronum.com/
Zandronum is the most regularly updated and up-to-date port. It currently uses a ZDoom 2.5.x base (but will soon update to 2.7.1). It supports the most features and has the highest number of players at any given time. Often times it is easy to pick up a CTF or DM game, other times you may need to either call people or just wait in the server. Finding an oldschool style cooperative or survival server may be difficult, but there is CONSTANTLY servers with game play modifications on survival/coop wads.

Overall
Population: largest and growing
Port Future: Slow but steady
Port Features: More than you'll ever need, probably.

Ask yourself the following questions when aiming for a port
Do you require one or more of the following: DECORATE, 3D Floors, Dynamic Lights, New Actors, Classes, Complex Scripts, Extensive ACS support, PK3 or PK7 support, UDMF support, Portals, Open GL, extensive audio file type support, interchangeable texture and flat usage?

If you answered yes to any of those questions, you need Zandronum.

Do you want the map to work on ALL the ports?
Do you want to make a simple 1v1 or ffa map?
Then you should make sure they work in all the ports. Rule of thumb is generally if it works in odamex, it works in ZD and ZAN. If it works in ZD, it works in Zan, but might not work in odamex. If it works in ZAN, it might not work in ZD or odamex. Odamex and Zdaemon require that WADS are constructed according to the old style, so make sure that the WAD is properly compiled. ZAN is more flexible.

Do you want to make an invasion-style cooperative map or a survival challenge? Probably your best bet is to aim for ZD or Zan.

Getting your wad hosted on each port is different. Each port supports someone setting up their own home server or LAN server. For dedicated hosts, Zandronum supports users setting up their own server via the TSPG service or by asking another server host. Zdaemon and Odamex require that you ask a server host for dedicated server. This is, of course, assuming you aren't hosting your own set of dedicated servers.

Game modes
These are the various game modes supported by each port.

Odamex
(Doom Iwads; heretic planned) (No bots)
Duel (Dedicated 1v1 game mode)
Deathmatch (plus teams)
Capture the Flag (plus manual ctf)
Co-operative

Zdaemon
(All Doom IWADs plus Heretic, maybe some broken bits of Hexen?) (Supports bots)
Deathmatch (plus teams up to 4)
Duel (dedicated 1v1 game mode)
Capture the Flag
One Flag CTF
3 or 4 team CTF
Double Domination
Survival
Cooperative
Customizable settings for each of the above.

Zandronum
(Doom IWADs plus Heretic, Hexen, and Strife) (Supports bots)
Duel (Dedicated 1v1 game mode)
Deathmatch (plus teams up to 4)
Capture the Flag
One Flag CTF
3 or 4 Team CTF
Last Man Standing (plus up to 4 teams)
Domination (up to 4 teams)
Terminator (plus teams up to 4)
Skulltag
Cooperative
Survival
Invasion (plus survival invasion)
Possession (plus teams up to 4)
ACS Game mode (allows users to make their own custom game mode)

Flags/Settings
Many people here might be confused with the tossing around of terms such as oldschool and Newschool. Generally it is referring to a series of flags (settings) that determine what your game play experience is like on a technical level.

There are 3 generally accepted forms of flags (mostly from a DM perspective). OS and NS flags are generally highly contested and everyone has their own idea of what is "right"

Oldschool (OS)
Nightmare skill (native double ammo)
Double Ammo
No Freelook
No Jump
No Item Respawn
Strict Air control
Infinitely Tall Actors
Preferred Weapon Order switching

More conservative OS servers might include
No Crosshair
Silent West Facing Spawns
Automatic Weapon Switching

New Oldschool (Rustking style) NOS
Ultra Violence skill (to avoid native double ammo)
No additional Double Ammo
Freelook Enabled
No Jump
Less strict air control
Item Respawn

New School (general dm, not duel) NS
Nightmare Skill (for Double Ammo)
Double Ammo
Freelook enabled
Item Respawn

Some servers
Jump enabled
High degree of Air control

Capture the flag standard is a mix
Nightmare Skill
Double Ammo
Jump Enabled
Item Respawn
Freelook Enabled
Strictish Air control

Determining what flags your project will follow is EXTREMELY important. You need to determine this from the very beginning because it will influence how you map. Do you want bridge things? If the answer is yes, you are automatically excluded from the OS category. Infinitely tall actors is a bitch. What about doubling up the ammo? If you want to make a more strategic map, keep in mind how much ammo is given by the server. This is especially important with BFG ammo. What about your audience? Are you aiming for a particular brand of DM or Duel? Jump can be forced off via MAPINFO in zd and zan (maybe odamex too, not sure).

Pick a set of flags (settings) that you want and stick by it. It sucks to play through a wad only to find out that it is very confused about what it wanted to play. See that BFG on a ledge? Well, in NS, I can just jump up there and grab it. If you design the maps around intended settings, it will work much better, and make it easier for server hosts to host the wad as you actually intended it.

IMPORTANT NOTE ON NS DUEL
Notice I did not put flags up for NS duel specifically. This is because NS duel is extremely contested and has never been standardized across ports as far as I know. People have run various NS duel tournaments and may say their settings are the standard, but realistically most settings are slightly different across ports and even across tournaments on the same port! The most contested flag though I would say is AIR CONTROL. People are VERY hung up on it.

In a nutshell though, NS Duel is GENERALLY characterized by:
Freelook enabled
Item Respawn
Jump Enabled


Mapping basics Given that I've worked on several projects spanning multiple game modes I'll lay out some basic mapping tips that will help you get started and move along in the mapping process.

The very basics.
The most important part about mapping for multiplayer Doom is that you need to accept that your audience will most likely be small. Gone are the days of making hit map packs; it is exceedingly rare to make map packs or mods that hold people's attention for too long. Once you accept the fact that your work may have a limited audience (if any audience), it's easier to move on. I'm sorry, but that's just how it is. Make the maps YOU want to make, that YOU are happy with, because I guarantee you it will be a hard time to find praise in this picky community.

The single-most important piece of advice I can give is have fun in the making process. If you aren't having fun, stop right there. Forced maps are bad maps. Don't set out to make a 32 map DM wad, burn out after 10 maps, and force yourself to make 22 additional shitty maps. Nobody will play them, you will not be satisfied, and nobody will be happy.

Find people to REGULARLY play and test with. I count myself as very lucky to have the play-testing group that I have right now. Having good players and good mappers play-test the wad for all sorts of issues and offering suggestions makes the wad infinitely better. Check out this topic I made before on this very subject.

Talk to other people about your project. Get real-time feedback from events (Nitro, FNF, ZDS). Get on IRC. There are lots of people who are willing to help you test and build a better project.

Your first few maps are going to suck. Deal with it. The likelihood of you making great maps in your first go-around is very low, so don't make something and expect people to be as happy about it as you are. Multiplayer mapping is ALWAYS a work in progress.

Try to be unique, but be conscious about bad mapping techniques. People like to complain about playing the same damn map for 10 years, but when offered new maps they prefer to go back to the old maps. Find that balance between the established standards of play versus offering something new. On the other hand, if you want to make more of what we've already seen, that's fine too, it just adds to the pile of wads to play.

Put effort in. Seriously. Nobody likes half-assed Doom2alphabeta.wad 1934 ugly-ass maps that were made in 5 minutes. There is a difference between no effort "old school" aesthetics and real effort "old school". We can tell if you care or not, and chances are likely we will take the map about as seriously as you.

Don't let projects drag out. It's not worth it, it sucks to work on the same thing forever. Again, make reasonable goals for yourself such as 5-10 map add-on packs. It minimizes the time you have to put in while still providing plenty of new content. Quality over Quantity.

Let's look at some game modes and be more specific.
Capture the Flag.
My experience for mapping for CTF comes in the forms of Velocity CTF and Rage CTF. Both of these packs have won various degrees of praise and criticism, both have been played well in public servers, and both have seen maps integrated into the main compilation packs being played today (ZDMega, IDL201X, WDL201X). Each pack had radically different mapping processes which has provided lots of insight for my mapping (inb4 but Decay you never learned).

First and foremost I will say right now mapping for CTF is not easy. Getting your maps liked and played with any sort of regularity takes an incredible amount of effort, time, and, unfortunately, popularity. CTF players are extremely picky about maps, and any little nuance that is negatively noticed will doom the map to oblivion and more than likely subject the author to endless ridicule.

CTF maps, generally, are CROSS PORT. They are (generally) built in ZDOOM DOOM IN HEXEN format. The main reasoning for this was because zdaemon was the most active CTF port for years, while still getting playtime on skulltag/zandronum, and odamex was starting to support more CTF features. The IDL was played on ZD and moved to Odamex, therefore it was in the mapper's best interest to supply maps that were support on all 3 ports. It would be neat to see what a set of CTF maps dedicated to Zan would be capable of though (taking advantage of 3D floors which really hasn't been done yet). There are currently no major CTF projects going on, other than CoreCTF2 which will probably never finish for 10000000 reasons.

The best advice I can give for mapping for CTF is a) play a lot of CTF yourself, public and private b) find GOOD CTF players to test the maps c) get feedback and really consider it, people are saying things for a reason d) map for small quantities of players (3v3 is ideal)

 

Providing Feedback to a Multiplayer Project

Knowing how to provide feedback is equally important to you for your maps as it is for others constructing their maps

 

First and foremost: Identify how the map should be played. Establishing a flagset for intended game play is the first step in giving good feedback and suggestions. Understanding the intended flagset will direct you in terms of giving suggestions. Is it a good idea to having a respawning blue armour in a map with many health packs? No, so this suggestion for a NS map is not a good idea. Does a map have an isolated area containing 1 soulsphere? Might not be a good idea in OS settings where the soulsphere won't respawn, meaning the area is rendered pointless. Is it designed for 1v1? 4-6 DM players? More? Custom weapons or not? How the map is intended to play is super important, and really I must emphasize the author should point how they envision the map being played when submitting it for feedback.

 

When you are thinking about giving feedback, don't just think about how YOU would play it. Think about how top players would play it. You might not be good with a SSG, but the top duelists will lock you down with ruthless, turret-like efficiency. You might not be fastest player, but others will be darting around the map at turbo 255. Do you really have time to lower a lift and get an armour before someone robs you? Probably not.

 

Turn on a clientside flag that shows you where the spawns in the map are. This will help you see exactly where the spawn vantage points are without opening the map up in doombuilder and immediately identifying any problems related to spawn placement. Are they in a hallway? Are they in high traffic areas? Does it have a weapon on it? If not, why not, is it feasible to pull that off (usually not)? Is this spawn going to get run over every time, or dominate every time? Spawns are arguably one of the most important aspects of a map and are worth the most attention; 1 bad spawn can make or break a map.

 

It's nice to do, but not always necessary to play the maps with some people in the intended game mode before providing feedback. Many issues can be spotted and resolved before the playtesting stage. This includes undetailed and detailed maps. How does it flow? Is there enough space to get around? Is something catching you along a hallway or through a doorway? Do you think somewhere could have more visibility or more cover?

 

Try and identify areas of interest, or point out where one or another could be made. What are the strengths and weaknesses of those points of interest? Why would a player want to be here?

 

Health and ammo amounts. Lots of health is actually not a good thing. You're playing Deathmatch, not Lifematch. Spread it out and balance it according to your flags. Less health is great in item respawning scenarios, and health actually doesn't matter as much in OS... it might make or break a couple lives, but don't overdo it too much.

 

Structures are important to consider as well. Is the main playing area flat? Consider the benefits and drawbacks of various heights or flat playing fields and what they mean for freelook or non-freelook play. Doom autoaim is unreliable, and lag definitely doesn't help; radical changes in height are not good for OS play.

Do you have to waste your time doing stupid things for worthless items? Are valuable items wayyy too out of reach for general game play? Make suggestions on how to keep a game moving smoothly.

Cover versus open areas are super important. Take into consideration spawns, item placement, and overall visibility when thinking about how to give feedback on the balance of cover vs open area.

Are you opening up an item for somebody else? Identify problematic gimmicks like lifts lowering across the map, where you probably won't make it before someone else takes the goody.

 

Power-ups are STRONG. The blue armour in particular is beastly. Consider power-ups in relation to the weapons available. In a map full of SG and CG spawns, a BA is going to be overwhelmingly powerful. A berserk does actually serve a use, and a well-placed, respawning soulsphere can dictate a match. Take a look at what powerups are available in the map, or possibly think about where they might fit.


Disclaimer: if there is an inaccurate information presented here, please correct me.

Edited by Decay
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Nice write up! This would make a great sticky.

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Oh, interesting article!
This could be good for all the newbies and the mapper that aren't highly confident with multiplayer tricks!

I didn't knew too about double domination mode in zdaemon (is maybe similar to the Domination game mode from skulltag / zandronum?)...

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Thanks.

I've edited the post.
Cleaned up the post.
Updated some information on Odamex after speaking with Ralphis and Demonsphere.
Added general multiplayer mapping advice
Added advice on CTF projects
Added footnote about NS duel flags

Next: Will cover Duel/DM

@Walter
Double-Domination is very different than Zandronum's Domination game mode. I can't remember the specifics right now, but the scoring mechanisms are nowhere near the same. I'll have to look into Double Dom again.

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BUMP

 

Added in a "giving feedback" section

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how long did you spend writing it, it was well written, and provided some good, basic information

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i dunno, not that long, maybe 30 minutes total

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