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rdwpa

At first, a layout.

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It would be cool if I were able to design a rough layout first, and then design the map around it, but this process seems very anemic to me. On the gameplay front, it is fine, but as far as visuals are concerned, the map feels 'done' in many respects, with the question of "where will my whimsy take this layout?" largely nonexistent.



Doodle that sparked this thread.

Or maybe this is a silly concern because I can always redraw key elements of the rough layout to suit my needs -- particularly additional areas and connections, large structural elements that simply won't fit as is, shapes that don't mesh well with a designed encounter. (Not such a big loss, because the initial layout should not take ages anyway.) The interest-sustaining question could be more like, "Okay, this is my basic shape, and I'm NOT stuck with it!!! So how might it balloon out of control? :D"

Room by room design doesn't work for me, really. It's hard for a texturing idea, or a single fight idea, to inspire me. "Area by area" design -- a hybrid of two processes previously mentioned in this post -- does sometimes, but it shares room-by-room's problems where transitions to areas not yet built are concerned. Detail walls now, and the work might be doomed to the scrap pile when it needs to be deleted to make room for a transition. Or leave the walls bare and empty, and you are designing layout-first anyway! Seems to work best when that type of interstitial wall isn't really a thing (e.g. sandbox maps with structures floating in a void).

Anyway, what are your thoughts on layout-first design, pro and con?

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It's hard to provide criticism without actually seeing the map. Maybe provide a link?

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While I applaud folks who can plan out a map/encounter and stick to their design, I can't really profess to be able to do that (with the exception to btsx e2m3, but in that case layout is the ONLY thing I did and Xaser did all the other work).

I essentially operate "room by room", but these days I try to refrain from adding detail/complexity so as to keep things malleable and to prevent my brain from getting attached to an area as fixed-in-place. I need to have the mental freedom to tear down a wall or room if a better idea arises for connectivity/whatever, but if I've invested a ton of time making a room "purty" then it's harder to let go. It also helps me stick within vanilla limits ;-)

Another thing I've been doing for my last 4-5 maps is to not define the actual player start until after the layout is mostly done and I get a better idea of how the space flows and what should the gameplay be like. Until then I treat the player start as a mobile entity to assist me with playtesting whatever section I happen to be working on.

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I have always operated very much the same in terms of making an area 100% before moving on. On my current project, I'm mapping layouts first and detailing isn't set to happen until the very end, which does have me feeling much like many of them are anemic; I think that is the perfect word. But as Vorpal said, the author needs to have the mental freedom to totally change around an area as a malleable thing rather than treating everything as being fixed in-place.

Detailing first (or close to it) also seems to reinforce that areas are less malleable, as work and time have gone into making an area visually complete as-is; changing it breaks at least something somewhere. I suppose that's why many DM mappers do detailing last: DM layouts are more finicky than SP ones due to the additional chaos of many fast players running around, shooting at other fast players while attempting to quickly dodge their shots.

It's cool how different approaches can not only produce different results, but also teach us important techniques in the process.

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I do a rough layout and slowly add stuff. Like, I may not do the entire map in rough, but I'll do large sections of it. I'll get caught up in a particular room and begin articulating, but I try not to 100% finish an area if the rest of it is really rough. I kind of just gradually start adding detail to various areas until it's all done.

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I find it hard to leave detailing for the very end since sometimes I don't feel happy with where the map is going until I run it through Tormentor's Detailing Conveyor and spam some sectors and adjust the lighting. I always add things early too and try to get a section playable quickly just to see if it's working or not.

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Building the layout first was something that I fought kicking and screaming for years while other mappers like Kaiser kept telling me it was the best way to go.

I used to work room-by-room, but I always ended up mapping myself into corners that way. Trying to figure out the layout, gameplay, and visuals all at the same time tended to become kind of a nightmare, and it's hard to focus on all those things at once without important stuff getting neglected. The worst thing about the room-by-room approach was that I couldn't make major layout changes without having to first make the difficult decision to throw out tons of completed detailing work.

Nowadays I build the rough layout first, sketching it out using simple shapes like I'm doing an IWAD-style map, with some quick and simple lighting contrast, and floodfilling structures with a couple of appealing textures like WOOD5 and METAL2 that can provide some visual contrast with each other, so I can discern different buildings and such at a glance. Even though the finished map isn't going to look anything like the layout sketch, making the shapes of the layout sketch look good to me in an overall macrostructure sense is important so that I can more easily believe it'll look good once it's been detailed. This was one of the main things that kept me from successfully doing the layout-first approach before, I think. (Well, that and not yet having had to scrap and rebuild several entire levels due to their original versions exploding into layout disasters. That was some good motivation to try not letting that happen again...)

One thing I really like about building the layout first is that if I want to do something really ridiculous like making an entire section of the map raise or lower as a trap or just to connect two parts of the layout path together, I can do that and then arrange the visuals around those needs. When going room-by-room I'd often want to do something cool like that, but would have to either make it an entirely new area (meaning more map bloat and not really solving the layout problem), significantly downscale it compared to the original plan, or basically rebuild everything to make it work.

Because it's still sometimes easier to get ideas going once I know what the finished map will look like, I don't hold myself 100% to the original layout sketch if new ideas come along. Expanding on setpieces and other areas during the detailing process, or using detail sectors to create access to new secrets,etc. can make for some nice finishing touches on the layout.

I posted the original layout sketch for my Ancient Aliens map22 in the DWmegawad Club thread for it, if anyone is curious what it started out as.

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I know I'v not publicly released anything really, but I always draw my map design in a somewhat simple fashion, get the flow idea down, try to know what map slot its going to take so I know how many elements to make in or how big the map will be in the first place, and so I'v much guidence to make the map in a quicker orderly fashion, then I design monster encounters based on map slot/ available weapons that should roughly be for the slot, and then I make sure certain spots like turret ledges are big enough to fit an arachnotron just in case, stuff like that.

I'v been stalking many of the mappers here and their methods and designs, I'v been studying YOU ALL very carefully... The way I like to do my lighting the area has to be done in order for me not to waist literally a half a day just to end up seeing a problem with the rooms design or if the scale is off, just to have to delete hours of work out because of said problems, its disheartening and does not promote effeicient work flow.

A big thing you could do when planning is over exaturate areas so you can fit nifty designs in or just shrink that spot down if you don't need all the room, it's what I like to do, helps me alot. I'm still learning also so take what I say with a grain of salt.

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