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Design principles when mapping

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I think that might be some kind of trauma after finishing plutonia. Maybe one day I'll be mentally able to put them in my maps. :p

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scifista42 said:

run-and-gun > pop-shoot-hide (gameplay)
non-linear > linear (progression)
non-orthogonal > orthogonal (angles)
non-symmetrical > symmetrical (architecture)
varied > repetitive (anything)

...strive for originality in whatever shape or form.

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I'm still new to Doom mapping, but I understand the idea behind have your personal rules to follow when mapping as I've been making UT and Source maps for going on 10 years now. So I'll list what I've taught myself and held myself too in terms of quality over the past few months making Doom maps. Not all of these are my own, just things I've come to make sure I follow:

- The top and sides of stairs have different textures. Always.
- Pits, cliffs, liquid pools, etc, all must have smoothed surfaces. Broken into a reasonable number of smaller linedefs.
- Light source props have a lighting gradient outward to their surroundings, regardless of how "noticeable" you think it might be in your map
- Obviously placed weapons and pickups should have some sort of "base" to sit on. No healthpacks just sitting on the floor, no BFG just laying in the middle of a puddle of water.
- Never spawn the player immediately in the line of fire (no line of sight to enemies on spawn)
- Height differential between different floor and ceiling textures (thanks Romero)
- Doorways/archways (even without actual doors) should have a corner feature to separate each part of the wall/texture. So "molding" or something around the corners.
- Ceiling, floor, and wall lighting textures should be recessed and covered with a mid texture if possible

Mostly just rules for keeping things detailed and clean looking, because I haven't done enough mapping to become an expert in gameplay yet but meh.

As long as people are posting, anyone have any tips for me on how I can better create switches? They usually end up just being a random 48x8 block in the ground.

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Usually I start mapping when I have an idea, I rarely just start drawing rooms.
So I believe in a good Plan when making a SP experience.

- Use a theme. This could be anything really.
ex: Pit of imps. (not meaning one would leave out all other monsters) just a way of
showing what's the center point of attention. It will show in your leveldesign and
the map will be more memorable when u do.
ex: Triangle. Again don't exclude other shapes but put a focus on the theme.
ex: Brown-Green. (see below)
etc. etc.

- Always be aware of how many textures should be in one room. When a map starts out
totally cluttered with textures I simply end up not playing it. Why would u want
to be in a visually displeasing environment for the next half hour or more.
So I tend to be selective in my overall use of textures. I'm not setting a limit
but it's an interesting way to work to try making your map more memorable.
If it's a campaign I'm making, that will definitely help setting different atmospheres.

- Good use of contrast in both the looks of your maps as well as the gameplay.
Have bright and dark area's and have empty and crowded places.

- Try and do your best to put surprises in it.Use linear gameplay and then don't.

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t3hPoundcake said:

anyone have any tips for me on how I can better create switches?

Since texture-integrated switches come from a limited range of textures, it may be a good idea to think of how you texture a room/setting before placing the switch (which usually shows up last, or late). That is, let the theme of the texture switch define at least part of the area, and integrate it seamlessly.

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Oh if it hasn't been said- keep some damn consistency with your pain sector flats- I remember some of Plutonia 2 suffering from this- same flat would damage you in one place...then not in the other in the same map. Have it one or the other. Not both.

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Soundblock said:

Since texture-integrated switches come from a limited range of textures, it may be a good idea to think of how you texture a room/setting before placing the switch (which usually shows up last, or late).
That is, let the theme of the texture switch define at least part of the area, and integrate it seamlessly.

When a switch is installed in a wall, all switches can be combined with all textures.
Only one extra sector per switch is needed ... and of course, the switch is to be aligned.
The possibility of combination should be worth the effort ...

This procedure means that it is possible to integrate 8 switchgraphics (32x32) in one graphic slot (of course two slots, one for ON grafics and one slot for the OFF grafics).


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Miller said:

When a switch is installed in a wall, all switches can be combined with all textures.

For sure. However, the switch becomes a smaller target for the player to activate on. Which is a common, if minor, gameplay complaint.

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Soundblock said:

For sure. However, the switch becomes a smaller target for the player to activate on. Which is a common, if minor, gameplay complaint.

You're right. The question is, how fast you have to run ... :)


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When in doubt, Arch-Viles.

If you think you have enough Arch-Viles, you don't.

If you think you have too many Arch-Viles, you just might have enough.

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That's absolutely correct. I originally had 2 Archviles in one of my maps, then bumped it up to 8 and the gameplay quality went through the roof!

I will say I'm not a huge fan of AV spam fights in slaughtermaps where a wave of 20 or something is released.

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My list of design principles is constantly evolving. I learn new techniques and various things each time I open the map editor since I'm still relatively new to mapping.

- Use as few 90 degree angles as possible
- Decent lighting can make a crappy room look really good
- Every room should have a purpose and fit thematically into the level
- Most enclosed areas should have some sort of cover
- Open areas are difficult to make visually interesting
- All pits are escapable
- Opening new areas or paths makes backtracking feel less tedious
- Have an item of interest or secret in an obvious location with a less obvious way to obtain it
- Able to complete the level on pistol start
- Blood doesn't do damage. Come on now
- Chaingunners, Revenants, and Arch-Viles should be used sparingly... most of the time
- Be a dick with enemies and traps sometimes. Keep players on their toes
- Some high value pickups should have to be earned at a cost
- Playtest, playtest, playtest

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Things I like to try and keep in mind;

-Have a plan or solid idea in mind before I make a map, otherwise I'll get lost in the map-making process.
-No Instant Floor Raise traps without reason (Example: Cyberdemons/Armies of monsters appearing out of bricks for no reason). Find new and better ways of creating traps.
-Make the architecture, geometry, and layout of the map interesting.
-Encourage exploration with side-paths which have useful items in them.
-Implement a difficulty scaler of some sort based on player numbers in Cooperative/Survival modes and make sure the map doesn't break in multiplayer.
-Use Archviles for resurrection more than for offensive.
-Don't put Archviles and Barons together.
-Stack Health and Armor Bonuses in sets of 2 or 5 because standalone 1% bonuses are awful.
-Don't use Megaspheres that often.
-Don't put useless secret areas and items in or secret areas that are absolutely stupid to get to.
-Find ways to make usually non-threatening or low-threat monsters more threatening (Lost Souls, Demons, Former Humans, etc).
-Make traps that the player may not expect. Don't spam traps at key pickups, powerups all the time and find another area in the map for an ambush to occur.
-If making something in BooM format, make sure old-styled bridges don't break in multiplayer or mess with the gameplay.
-Make sure the map doesn't lag players out online.
-Make sure a player can't escape the map (with damaging floors, but make sure the player can get back into the map with a teleport).
-Don't put pits which the player has no chance of getting out of.
-Don't put a generic Icon of Sin as the final boss - do something original or creative for the final boss / final map besides shooting at a wall.

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I am still a bit new to map making, but I do have several "commandments" which imply my style.

1) Secrets are unneccesary.

If a player cannot get through a map without discovering a secret, he is going to have a bad time. Secrets are secrets, unless your wad is supposed to resemble a puzzle or a mystery game, keep secrets aside from progress.

2) Secrets have to be entertaining.

I like to make my secrets amusing at least. Display a secret message, or have a player run through a room which "warms up" the player if he acquires the secret weapon (like a rocket launcher, which may be impractical immediately, depends on position on the map), or activate a trap that smashes a enemy or douses a enemy in lava in the other room or something. Just something that can make the player chuckle once he notices it. And that principle can be used to bait the player into looking for secrets.

3) Progressive level editing.

No immediate Cyberdemons or Masterminds in the room next to the starting position, unless is "lore-related". Even if its the seventh map and it includes a "boss battle", the player should warm up with some imps or pinkies beforehand, unless he is playing on Ultra-Violence. Players on easiest settings get to warm up with enemies which pattern attack matches with the "boss" (for example, if the player has to fight a cyberdemon, a room beforehand he has to battle imps from all sides, to get that feeling of dodging around. Similary, if its a Archvile, have some pinkies rush at the player so the player can learn to take cover.

4) Divide the map into segments.

This one is my favorite. Simply, the player shouldn't notice the exit button immediately. But its much more complicated. Player can start at a hub with a lot of supplies to "reload 'n' refresh", or if its a linear level, have him start in a room so the player can get his bearings. From then, its like a chain: Battle, scavenge, recouperate, repeat. Each segment gets more challenging, and if its a hub-like map, the more player descends into a hallway, the more tough it gets. Of course, if you play my maps, you can be sure to find a room with a chair and a water dispenser once you complete a certain segment of the map.

5) Regular weapon pick-ups are a must, secret weapons, not so.

Much like the first rule, secret weapons can be used for fun or as a reward for finding a secret. However, if a player fights a Cybie with a shotgun, and realises there was a rocket launcher in some closet behind a table underneath the rug inside a cat's stomach that is sitting in the back of a purple van on the third parking of the second mall, and if that weapon WOULD ease up things alot for a big battle, that is a no-no. The player has to be able to defeat what he can with regular weapons. But if that rocket launcher was a BFG, then it would be fine.

6) Suprises and twists have to be original.

No more monster closets! No teleporting archviles near a plasma gun! Instead, these have to be much more sublime, and fun. For instance, the player can find a double barrel shotgun near some barrels. Then, a hell baron arrives! Player thinks "Oh this is easy!" Baron fires, player sidesteps, his flame ball triggers the barrels and damage the player by a lot. For such a trick to work, the player has to be set to a certain rhytm of the map first, so he slips and gets suprised.

7) No messy hell.

Yeah yeah, I get it. Hell-corrupted places must have rivers of blood and barbecues of human corpses everywhere, its hell after all! But, I do my hell maps diffrently. If its a space facility with bits of hell inside, have it only noticeable by a margin. Like, a open locker with skulls in it, a ominous looking ruin of a before-hand-activated portal somewhere in there, corpses are put only in dangerous places (yeah, "my" demons string up people near hazards and near "mob arenas") as a indirect sign of danger. However, if the player is in hell, I like to make hell look like a place a human may had been in back on earth in there. Like nightmarish supermarkets, libraries of doom, a park of stringed corpses. Basically, no caves or underground-looking places, unless its a mountain or a forest (if so, have a wooden shack somewhere in there), then some freestyle lines can be allowed. My favorite recipe is to recreate a certain historical battle playground, like people who made Painkiller did, so I put WW1 trenches, sieges of old fortress-es, some bridge passing, and some urban warfare, corrupted by little bits of hell.

8) Complete darkness is a no-no.

If there is anything I hate, its pitch-black maps with a torch or two in the walls, somewhere, across a pit of spikes, or right next to a legion of imps. I know there are players who often play Doom in well-lit rooms, or their screen occasionally gets sunshined at day. It's often nerve-wracking having to dodge some demons in a dark maze when you can't see anything even in real life. I know, its part of the "challenge", but too many mapmakers do it nowadays. If I am going to put a dark segment in, at least I place a light switch somewhere. Bonus points if its a timed light segment and you have to get back to the button to put up the lights again if you want to see anything.

9) Sometimes, scare the player.

But no screaming revenants or any cheap tricks. Once, in one of my mappacks, I had this first level re-run, but it starts at the exit, has no enemies to be seen, or music to be heard, and doused in some deathly dark gray lightning. Then far away from the map, I had crushers continuosly smashing enemies to raise that "kill count" once you press the automap button. The player had to get back to the starting room of the first map and press the "computer" that was there to finish the level. Of course, this was a secret map triggered by a secret button in some shack in some park, like it closes the door, permanently, and the player is locked up, transferred to the secret level I described like there, as if he had a dream while waiting in that shack. He returns to the next level supercharged with health and armor. Before that map the player had to blaze through a park with a plasma gun, while a cheery midi played in the background, and the secret "dream" level grabbed that pace, and raped it while smiling creepylike.

And the final "artistic" commandment, optional to some people, but nice enough.

10) Lore.

Every map has to have a back-story. Every single one. Even a "trainer" level, even a "breather" level, every single map.

No goofy random maps. No reasonless slaugthermaps.

The player, if he wants a reason, he has to get one. If he wants to know why was he spawned in some truck in some street, there will be a .txt file explaining how the player got there. If he wants to know why was he thrown in some spiral-like map which drops him level by level, he gets to know. If he wants to know why was that red card located in some room, he will know the reason. Unless, its for the dramatic effect. The player may know lore of every level before or after that secret "dream" map I described up there, but that dream level is left out on purpose. So if some level in my mappack doesn't have a description, its for a good reason.

And that is all, folks.

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