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Spectre01

Design principles when mapping

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I wanna hear what rules mappers here like to follow when designing levels and gameplay.

In my case:
-No "hot starts". I much prefer having enemies facing away from the player at the start of the map rather than having him mobbed right away. It gives the player a chance to analyze the surroundings for early pickups and formulate some kind of strategy.
-No secret weapons. In general, I don't like it when secrets provide a massive reward or change the gameplay of a map unless they're very obvious. Especially in difficult sets where I much prefer the no-secret Sunder approach. I believe difficulty should be more about execution rather than knowledge of the map.
-No death traps. Shit like instant-pop-in-your-face Cybers/Viles which are likely to kill the player in a second if they don't know about it is out.

Note: I may or may not actually follow those in the few maps I've made.

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I think secret weapons are okay if given as a "bonus" rather than something that is necessary for completion.

Another nag I have is when mappers use the "on" state for switches...when they are meant to be off...if that makes sense. Even worse if they are mixed up. It's like...a map with switches or many things to keep track of knowing which you've pulled/pressed etc is very important to stop you missing things or getting lost. Having something that could mislead at first is somewhat unfair.

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Hmm, never really gave this topic much thought (or at least, I don't think I have!!). As long as I feel my map isn't unfair, I pretty much do whatever, heh.

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Every time the player thinks "I know what's going to happen now" and it turns out he was right, the temperature in my personal future hell is increased by 1 C.

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Spectre01 said:

-No "hot starts". I much prefer having enemies facing away from the player at the start of the map rather than having him mobbed right away. It gives the player a chance to analyze the surroundings for early pickups and formulate some kind of strategy.

What about starts where most monsters face away from you but one or two of them face you and go after you immediately? So that you have to move at least a little to avoid damage while analyzing the surroundings before rushing out to awaken the other monsters too - or alternatively, exploit the awakened monsters to make them infight the not yet awakened ones. I've done this in my maps before and I kind of like it.

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1. Archviles are not cool.
2. Secrets are cool.
3. Secret archviles are not cool.
4. Slaughtermaps are not cool. (do not reply to this one please as we all know how it will end)
5. Barons of Hell are cool.
6. Sector art and furniture is super cool.
7. Doom 2 is not cool (come on, fight me!).
8. Cyberdemons are not cool.
9. Death traps are OK if they are early in the map.
10. Throwing in a crate maze is the coolest way to overcome a mapper's block.
11. Cool lighting is cool.

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bzzrak said:

4. Slaughtermaps are not cool. (do not reply to this one please as we all know how it will end)


I feel like that one is the least of your worries.

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FuzzballFox said:

I think secret weapons are okay if given as a "bonus" rather than something that is necessary for completion.

This really applies to all secrets, I think. Maybe the level is tougher without the stuff found in secret areas, but it shouldn't be required to complete the level (I say this not knowing for sure if I follow my own advice).

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scifista42 said:

What about starts where most monsters face away from you but one or two of them face you and go after you immediately?


I'm cool with that. As long as it's not a multi-directional gangbang as soon as the map loads.

FuzzballFox said:

I think secret weapons are okay if given as a "bonus" rather than something that is necessary for completion.


It's alright as long as it doesn't significantly alter the pace of the map. I think it was map23 of Alien Vendetta where there's a ton of cells lying around, a bunch of meaty foes, several Cyberdemons and a secret Plasma Rifle. Sure, it's not necessary for completion but shotgunning Cybers while sitting at 600 cells with no way to spend them takes all the fun out of that level.

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I found guiding myself under strict mapping principles can often do more harm than good. For example, I'm sure many people would agree that forced item pickups such as a shellbox placed directly in front of a mandatory switch is lame, so you make it a rule to never do that. However there are still circumstances where a forced partial invisibility makes the following fight more fun and chaotic, or a forced berserk pack or chainsaw might add some extra pressure to a fight due to an uncomfortable weapon change. The best thing you can do for yourself as a mapper is be honest with yourself about whether what you're doing contributes to how fun the map is. If you find that testing your own work is becoming a chore for you, then perhaps there is something inherently wrong with the map that you need to remedy.

Almost all arbitrary "never do this" rules can be made better with some conditional tidbits to tack on to the rule like "except when the player has this weapon" or "except when there are these types of monsters on the map" or "except when the player has too low of health" etc.

There's a lot of opportunities to make Doom more fun and exciting and sometimes you have to look for unconventional ways after all the general things have been done to death. There aren't enough maps where Hell Barons are used as the same light-tier fodder that pinky demons and imps are used as, or mapsets where the rocket launcher is the first weapon, or maps where invulnerability spheres are more common than health items. There's lots of cool potential that hasn't been tapped yet and using artificial guiding principles based on stuff that's tried and true can be really stifling for creativity.

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Another example of how carefully chosen design principles can work against you is if you vow to never make slaughtermaps, you might dismiss the possibility of putting many monsters in a room at one time. After the player has been trudging through your map repeatedly engaged in moderate/low skill encounters, you might be surprised to know that sometimes a massive shitstorm of imps is exactly the kind of flare your map needs.

Or if you're working on a mapset where all the maps are guided by those same rules, some player may find it tiresome and monotonous and with a single supercharged deadsimple/fuckyou style map that kinda sprouts up in between can be extremely rejuvenating for the player and keep them immersed in your mapset.

Not to discredit the plausability of having strict rules, as they can be very important on a per map basis. If you want to make a creepy ambient exploratory map, a surprise wave of revenants with a plasma gun and backpack might not work to set the tone for what you're trying to convey. Another example is a map I made for Absolute Dishonor. I made a rule for the map that all teleport gate flats were floor switches. This is not true for any of my other maps, but in terms of the level alone, this is an important piece of information that needs to remain consistent in the map in order for the player to solve the puzzle and exit the map.

So yeah, for individual maps, rules work. But if you're going to define your entire mapping background on specific arbitrary rules, everyone will know what to expect when playing your maps and you can be prepared to lose a lot of fans.

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I don't really do too much in the way of hard rules aside from trying to follow certain IWAD conventions in Heretic maps (keys/lock markers/glitter usage) and vaguer attempts at "authenticity" when it comes to Heretic/Hexen stuff. Otherwise if it plays good, and looks good, it is good.

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well if you ever ask me:


- I sets my own deadline (I spent only 3 hours on doing maps due to time constraint).

- linearity is necessary.

well that's about it I guess.

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40oz said:

So yeah, for individual maps, rules work. But if you're going to define your entire mapping background on specific arbitrary rules, everyone will know what to expect when playing your maps and you can be prepared to lose a lot of fans.


Pretty much this. I like to use arbitrary rules for individual levels, such as 'this level has no revenants' or 'this level will have lots of crushers' to attempt to create variety.

That said, I do try to adhere to some fairly obvious guide lines.

(1) What a switch does should always be clear, unless it's a secret.
(2) A level should be beatable without using any secrets.
(3) The lethality of a trap should be proportional to how heavily it's telegraphed.
(4) Highlight the map objectives.
(5) When in doubt, rip off Dark Forces/Quake.

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One of the reasons I like the term "principles" (or, as came up in an earlier thread on a similar topic, "tenets,") is that it doesn't carry the same connotations of finality and inflexibility as "rules" might.

It may be a kind of meta-principle that "any principle that leads to inferior gameplay and lowered player satisfaction shouldn't actually be enshrined as a principle." And I think there are a number of things a map author can do which are likely to be so frequently and broadly frustrating to a player that, while a skilled and experienced mapper can incorporate them in a way that delivers satisfying gameplay, the sheer obtuseness of the situations required to provide that gameplay reinforces the value of the general principle - it becomes "the exception that proves the rule." For example, you'd have to be doing something pretty specific with your map for "use distinctive door textures" not to be a guiding principle in the construction of standard, walk-up-to-it-and-press-the-space-bar doors, or for "use appropriate colours to highlight key-locked doors" to be a principle that actively diminishes the player experience. And if you're doing something specific and creative with a map that invalidates those general principles within the context of what you're building - great, that's awesome and I look forward to playing it, but in most situations, appropriately distinctive door textures and colour cues are helpful in sparing the player the tedium of pressing every identical wall (or checking the automap) in order to figure out the way forward, or sparing the player from having to attempt to open every door in order to figure out what key is required to open it.

So I guess a design principle should also come with explanations of "this is why the principle is valuable," and "this is what might happen if you deviate from the principle," in order to further the conversation.

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-Never ever 64 wide hallways.
-Switch results should always be visible from switch
-When in doubt, Revenant
-Map should always be completeable without secrets
-If a player can establish a foothold immediately in a big fight, you are making the map wrong.

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I try to give myself some leeway but, over the years I have developed a few habits

-the critical path needs to have at least 128 units of leeway in movement (side-paths are ok to be cramped)
-the player should always at least be pressured to move during combat, be it through healthpack placement, enemy placement, environment design, or some other means
-lately I've found myself placing optional rooms, alternate paths and windows to later areas whenever I possibly can. I like how it makes the maps feel more complex

10. Throwing in a crate maze is the coolest way to overcome a mapper's block.


this too :^)

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I had a few guidelines when I made maps:

-Always give the player something to do. The player should be able to rip through the level without staying in the same area for too long.
-Use lightly armored enemies like hitscanners, imps and pinkies more often than larger enemies. They're dangerous in huge numbers but go down easily. Instant feedback!
-Limit archvile and pain elemental usage as much as possible, because they tend to hoard the player's attention. No barons of hell, because they're just hell knights that take more time to kill, i.e. boring.
-Provide both shotguns as early as possible. On subsequent levels, provide them at the very beginning and allow the player to get the SSG right after the regular shotgun so that there is no need to switch weapons manually.
-No chainsaws, because I dislike the sound effect, and the weapon key prioritizes it over the berserk fist.
-Open up pathways that allow the player to access previously traveled parts of the map and make the player pass through the same area multiple times. The level can be linear, but these are good ways of giving the impression that it's an open area.
-Give a sneak peek into what the level's going to offer, either an overview of the level, a landmark, a hub or the exit. A window is fine.
-In general, have a piece of architecture, a landmark or hub that is memorable and that you can easily associate the level with.
-Never ever overcomplicate geometry. If a detail is barely visible a few feet away from the player at the lowest resolution, discard it. I found that playing with extreme differences in lighting gave far more interesting results. This is maybe the most important rule I had for myself, and it isn't even gameplay-related.

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Here's an odd one that's pretty distinctly-me: the automap view ought to look aesthetically pleasing, as it's an essential extension of the level itself. I've spent a lot of time dragging vertices and shaping curves solely to make the 2D outline of things look better. :P

Similarly (albeit more commonly), "hidden" and "secret" linedef flags exist for a reason. Keep that automap clean and spoiler-free!

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On the other hand, it really rattles my barn when the mapper removes large sections of the automap. This was most evident in BTSX E2 and I have no idea why large chunks of some levels had no map for them. Quite annoying when you find the computer area map and it doesn't actually show the parts you've missed.

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antares031 said:

Here are some of my personal thoughts:

- Always provide some solid, reliable pillars around the area with revenants and arch-viles, so the players can protect her/himself against homing missiles and flame magics.

- Do not abuse arch-viles too much.

- Be strict to the texture alignment, including flats if possible, unless you're designing an entrance of a secret area. When it's hard to manage the overall texture alignment properly, just use some border textures between those lines.

- Do not place the original monster spawners, which spawn the monsters repeatedly until the end, around the level if you're designing an ordinary one, not a final boss round with the Icon of Sin.

- Please leave at least a tiny little hint around the secret area.

- Do not abuse arch-viles too much. (2)

- Be friendly to players with blind play; the players should be able to beat the level with no huge problems in their first try.

- Test your levels frequently during the development. Not just to figure out gameplay flaws, but the designers should feel the space, environment, architectural designs of the area that they've just created. So they can figure out the way to make the current section & the next section much better.

- Do not abuse arch-viles too much. (3)


My thoughts on points 1 and 4:

1: Pillars are not needed, especially with revenants. Player can run to another room (for both), or have them hit a monster like a knight or baron (revenants).

4: In most levels this may be true but I disagree in some cases. Monsters spawning in a level consistently can create a new challenge to the player and can make the map very interesting if done correctly. Look at Hadephobia map20 for an example of this.


And though I script more than I map, I guess I can throw a few in the fire:

1: I tend not to like it when a shotgun shell box is blocking my path and I have 99 shells.

2: No SS except in secret levels if they are wolfenstein themed.

3: There's a huge difference between a Hell Knight about to die vs a a healthy Baron trapping you in a corner. Barons also serve as good tanks and can rip Cyberdemons into gore if ambushed by a decent sized group of Barons.

4: Unless explicitly started, make them pistol started.

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Pillars aren't really needed for cover against revs as long as you have a wall. Other monsters can also neutralize rockets, too. Melee trolling is also an option in tight spaces.

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Some really good stuff here, even if just taken as advice. Been following this thread for a bit, and I figured I'd toss in my two cents. I'm not a veteran mapper, or even close, so maybe a bit of fresh paint might be useful to someone. These are my personal rules for my own maps, and I don't knock points for (most of the time) other people not following them, obviously. Like everyone else here, I don't always follow my own rules.Anyways, here's Wonderwall:

  • Like Spectre, I usually avoid "hot starts". I either don't have enemies in the first area, or have them facing away. This lets the player plan instead of simply react, at least for one encounter, as well as letting the player choose to play smart if they want.
  • Never ever ever make a pit that is inescapable. Even my nukage pits will have some sort of escape. If curiosity kills the player, I feel like I've messed up.
  • Always at least have some sort of backstory or lore in-mind, if not outright in your WAD or a text file.
  • Always take the time to set up difficulty options so your map is more accessible to more people, as well as allowing players to challenge themselves if it's too easy.
  • Lower unpeg every door where appropriate. This is a major turn off for me when playing maps.

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Quick wad/video I whipped up demonstrating some useful combat techniques against free-roaming revs in close-ish quarters.



Melee induction is really useful. There is a lot less to dodge if they don't fire in the first place, and that can be quite helpful in tight spaces. Rev fireballs can be guided into walls. This is most relevant in open spaces, where you should stand near walls and dodge towards the wall and forward. Practice these strategies and ground-revs will be a lot less dangerous. Turret revs in GA-less maps can eat a dick, however.

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It has been nearly a year since I've created a map and have not released anything on to idgames since 2048 Unleashed. But here are some design goals I have stuck to over recent years.

- I am not a fan of slaughter maps
- Realism in the architecture and light levels
- Minimize back tracking
- Plenty of secrets
- Always a way to get out if you fall into a pit or something (teleport, elevator)
- Make sure the map can be completed without secrets (but of course secrets can really help)
- I tend to prefer my start rooms with no enemies in sight or enemies facing backwards
- BLOOD is 5% damage
- NUKAGE is 10% damage
- LAVA is 20% damage

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rdwpa said:

Quick wad/video I whipped up demonstrating some useful combat techniques against free-roaming revs in close-ish quarters.


related point: the meta in doom really isn't that arduous to learn (if the player is interested in doing so). watch a demo or two on a few hard maps and you'll see all the techniques worth learning and practicing. it's 2017, stop eating rev fireballs and don't let mr. cyber pilfer more than 80 of your cells!!

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Here are my rules that I strictly stick to, while making a map:
-fuck chaingunners
-fuck revenants
-fuck lost souls and pain elementals
-fuck arch-viles
-pistol start-able
-no enemies in start room
-if you press a switch, you should be able to see what it does
-make difficulty settings
-do not put all the weapons at the beginning. Personally I like to start with shotgun, but every other weapon should appear in later maps
-if you made your map plutonia style, your map is wrong
-if you made your map tnt style, your life is wrong
-make player feel that he has control over the character. Dont make tight places.
-lighting is important.
-don't make rooms that are square shaped, circles or rectangles are better.
-berserk is better than chainsaw
-no 10%-20% damage sectors.
-make secrets as obvious as possible. If it isn't obvious, make a blinking light around it.

Hope I'll be a good mapper one day.

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stasiowygrzybek said:

Here are my rules that I strictly stick to, while making a map:
-no nothing
-of any sort
-fuck it all


Wow, do you put anything in your maps? :P

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stasiowygrzybek said:

Here are my rules that I strictly stick to, while making a map:
-fuck chaingunners
-fuck revenants
-fuck lost souls and pain elementals
-fuck arch-viles

Hope I'll be a good mapper one day.


You might want to give those enemies a chance as they can make gameplay far more interesting by giving the player high-priority targets to kill. Obviously you don't want to do something like spam Pain Elementals, although I sometimes spam Pain Elementals. :/

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