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Poison Hub - Critique needed.

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Hello there.

My first map, Poison Hub, was uploaded a few days ago to idgames and is now available for download under the name POISOHUB. I would be grateful if you could try it out and give me feedback to help me improve my map design skills. Here are a few screenshots:

I've tried to make the map slightly non-linear so there are more potential ways in which you can play, instead of just following the same path every time.

Here's the DoomWorld link from which you can choose your download mirror.

John Connolly

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Demo of my playthrough

Pretty nice for a first attempt. You chose the simpliest kind of nonlinearity (just a hub) but yeah, it's good that there are some options to choose from.

The biggest problem I found is that some monsters are stuck in each other on UV. Also there are numerous cacodemons and even a baron, but all you have is a shotgun. It's generally considered boring to fight big numbers of tough monsters without rocket launcher, plasma gun, etc. So I just skipped some of them. Running away from the enemies is quite easy in this level by the way, since for traps you're using slow moving floors. Next time try using action 36 (W1 floor lower to 8 above highest floor). The editor might not say that, but it's actually a fast moving floor so it's perfect for traps.

Visual-wise, I think you're relying on bright sectors too much. Bright areas tend do look plain because they don't have that nice light diminishing effect. But of course you don't want everything to be dark too, so you need some lighting contrast (preferably within the same room). Here is a very simple example: before -> after. The surrounding sectors are now darker than nukage, which helps it stand out a little and draw the player's attention. In my opinion it's nicer this way.

Another thing that I think feels off in this map is how all areas are rather small. It's not very comfortable moving around the level when you're always about to either bump into something or fall in nukage. It would be great to see some larger locations. They tend to look more impressive too due to their scale (just don't go overboard).

Also you could use the "deaf/ambush" flag more often. It's too convenient for the player when he can just shoot once and stay at the door, while all monsters are coming to him. The blue computer maze is the most obvious example of this.

Aside from these issues, it seems like a competently made map. You show good understanding of technical stuff, alignment, etc. Would be interesting to see more.

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fda demo (prboom complevel 9)

I enjoyed it (also played through the rest of the iwad levels for comparison/fun).

The map is a pretty good first map. Hub maps are a good way to go.

Though, the map doesn't compete with better hub maps, like Doom2's Tenements:


1)Tenements has a lot of head room and more varied ceilings.

2)The hub is more interesting and memorable.

3)Branch rooms very memorable. each has it's own cute gimmick.

4)Romero likes to bind some of the side rooms together with windows, or even secret paths that make you feel clever to find (if the map gets too overconnected then players might get confused but whatever).
Your map was a bit stringy compared to Tenements, where Tenements is more compact. For example, a mapper always has the option to expand side rooms until they are close to touching eachother, then a window or etc can be thrown in between.

5) consider if you like cramped rooms vs more spacious rooms. I am okay with rooms that lean on the cramped side because they challenge movement; others despise cramped rooms cuz they impede on movement. Tenements has a pretty comfy amount of space while not trivializing combat.

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Thank you for your responses to my map. So far, they have been helpful in finding the weaknesses and strengths of Poison Hub.

@memfis: I did not notice the stuck monster problem, due to my rushed testing on the original DOOM engine. I used mainly ZDoom to construct this map, which is why I never noticed the error, so I will have to reconsider my testing strategies for my next map.

The exclusion of all other weapons was supposed to be a challenge to the player to see how well they could survive, but I do see that it can be monotonous at times, especially with the barons.

I was not aware of the fast floors, so that is something that I will definitely keep in mind.

The bright sectors are supposed to indicate outdoor areas, but they can be quite plain as you mentioned. I do agree that the diminished outdoors lighting was more effective and looked more appealing.

The small areas are meant to be a challenge to the player, but can be frustrating since they are used extensively so more size variety is on the to-do list. Additionally, I will use the deaf flag for some hidden enemy surprises, so as to make it more enjoyable for the player. I used the block sound flag on linedefs around the map to let monsters not hear other parts of the map, but it doesn't seem to work in some cases, for an unknown reason.

@NoisyVelvet: I had not really considered the window trick in my layout, since it was more spread out, but I can see that it would be quite effective in diverting the player's attention to the existence of another room.

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Regarding stuck monsters, this is a thing your level editor should have some sort of feature for detecting and warning you about. (Certainly SLADE can.)

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The block sound lines work in a slightly confusing way. The sound stops when it hits the second block sound line. It seems weird at first, but if you master it you can come up with some interesting situations that probably wouldn't be possible otherwise.

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@grommile: I used DOOM Builder to assemble and check the map for errors, but presumably it doesn't check overlapping things. SLADE was used primarily for injecting the new graphics but after checking the program's level editor, it has an option to check for overlaps, so I will have to use both in conjunction to check levels in the future.

@Memfis: Strange behaviour for the block sound linedef, but I suppose every engine has its quirks. I'll take note of it. Thank you for telling me.

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The behavior of block sound lines was designed to allow setups like you can see in Doom 2 MAP01, where there is a single block sound line between each main area, so that wherever you fire your weapon, it will wake up monsters in the area you're currently in AND in its directly neighboring areas, but NOT neighboring areas of its neighboring areas, for the sake of not waking up too distant monsters too early.

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DB2's error checker finds stuck things (although I'm not sure that the improved checker for Boom ever made it into an official release. Just use GZDB anyway).

scifista42 said:

The behavior of block sound lines was designed to allow setups like you can see in Doom 2 MAP01

Doom 2 MAP01 isn't the best example, because it doesn't work as the map author intended. The block sound flag on Linedef 190 doesn't to anything, which might confuse people further.

[edit] Also check ou the sound propagation mode of GZDB.

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I played through your map on ultra-violence, killed all enemies, and found 1/4 secrets. It's a great first map that avoids most of the issues that plague your typical 'first map' such as missing/misaligned textures and large empty areas with way too many or not enough monsters. It's certainly a lot better than the disaster that was my first proper map from like 11 years ago (which I still have floating around somewhere on my hard drive).

A few things I liked about the map...

- There is a good balance of monsters, health, and ammo.
- Claustrophobic areas are always good in my opinion - and are nicely done here.
- The first baron of hell is a nice surprise for players who try to avoid the trap in the neighboring room.

And a few constructive criticisms...

- Most of the map is rooms connected to rooms via doors. Consider connecting areas in different ways (tunnels, windows).
- Many of the rooms are somewhat bland and don't really contain anything notable. Maybe think about other kinds of spaces other than typical rooms (for example, large outdoor areas and hallways) and some height variation.
- The shotgun is a great weapon, but perhaps placing a chaingun or a berserk pack would have given the player more options without trivializing the difficulty. I only found one secret, so maybe there was another weapon somewhere that I missed...

Finally, if you're looking to make your maps as non-linear as possible, take a look at some of Ultimate Doom's maps (for example, E2M2). There are entire areas that are 100% optional, areas that loop back around on themselves, and windows providing a glimpse of what's to come later in the map (or to a secret area that you have no idea how to access). Keep it up, I enjoyed this map, I want to see more non-linear maps in the future!

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