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40oz

Making better maps

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I talked about this recently already, but this might be because nowadays most mappers exist in the same space. Very rarely we see outside forces disturbing our quiet stability, shocking us with something foreign and teaching us new things. In the old times the mapping world was more like a high number of isolated villages  with not much cultural exchange going on, so a lot of artists had their highly unique identities that weren't influenced by some golden standard or whatever. But by now globalization happened in all it's glory. This might be one of the reasons.

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I'm not sure where this is supposed to be going, but here are some thoughts on the subject:

 

1 hour ago, 40oz said:

I should make myself clear that what constitutes a good map is very subjective and varies from person to person. To tell people exactly what a good map is quite pretentious isn't it?

If there was a recipe for a "perfect" map, we'd all be spoiled and bored at the same time. So it's not that easy. However, there are things that I would argue are objectively not good. Repetitive gameplay elements in particular come to mind. If a mapper literally educates players to slowly sneak around every corner, because there's almost always a hitscanner, you have yourself a design-choice that defeats its own purpose by making players look for it every time they enter a room, for example.

 

Other than that, I notice a lack of proper feedback and criticism. Sure, this is a community, and yes, we'd all like to get along etc, but the moment a map is to be evaluated, there is no need to candycoat things, or point out a few nice things while leaving the actual criticism to somebody else. Players who opt to provide feedback need to understand that being nice for the sake of being nice is the worst possible course of action. I see it every so often. Single maps, or even entire mapsets get their X-star rating, one or two lines of text, and there's the "review". How are mappers supposed to get any better, if nobody is willing to make the effort and actually replay those things at least a few times and then write down what was nice and what wasn't? I think people need to realise that feedback is more than "5/5 would play again". I don't mean to say the review system we have in place is to be faulted here, but when you look at a set of a handful of maps, and then see mostly one-liners turned "reviews", I'd even go as far as arguing that dropping just a few lines of text is borderline disrespectful towards the mapper.

 

In my personal opinion, a player who played a mapset just once without thinking about it critically isn't "qualified" to provide feedback, and more often than not it might be better if said player wouldn't say anything more than "Just made it through, was nice, feedback later".

 

On the other hand, mappers need to be able to distance themselves from their maps to a degree that allows them to actually handle criticism properly, instead of getting defensive over certain ideas and design choices. I can tell for a fact that this does happen. That's not to say a mapper is obligated to do what a playtester says at any given point in time, but if a mapper is fortunate enough to actually get playtesters who are willing and able to put their spare time on the line, there needs to be better communication on either side to a point that all involved understand where everybody is coming from.

Edited by Nine Inch Heels

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I think the "best" popular maps today are designed with competition in mind. This competition among big time mappers might drive first time mappers to make maps like those, and this circle is locked into a endless cycle of "This mapper is popular, if I make a map similar to his, I will get popular as well", and I often see comparisons to other big name maps pulled along.

 

This comes from a dumb fruit who didn't play any of the "best" megawads beforehand, so my opinion might seem far fetched, but I presume having you guys look from a perspective of someone who hasn't played Chillax or Scythe and therefore cannot be easily answered when I ask something, with regards to some details or technical aspects, that you can judge yourself, ask yourself questions like "Does playing all the great wads make me a great mapper because I know what chord should I strike when mapping?", or "Is this person a bad mapper because he had not tried to replicate a aspect from my favorite map pack?" and even "Is this mapper's experience really directly proportional with the quality of his maps?" and many other questions.

 

Because, from my cozy point of view, there is a lot of attention being focused on "demos", "speedruns", technical aspects of the game's engine, the game itself is being disassembled, examined, and put back together. From what I see, monsters to you are just variables, same obstacles with little to no difference other than approach and resolution. The maps are examined thoroughly, mathematically even, and while the "perfect map" does not exist yet, I have a feeling that there will be one in the end.

 

Simply put, when I look at Doom, I see a narrative hidden behind details, a story, a experience, that has yet to be written down as the game plays out. When I play Doom, I roleplay 95% of the time, imagining the player character to be someone with a goal, with experience, with determination. I guess if someone rips out a map from any megawad, without telling me what it is and who made it and why, chances are I will enjoy it, I would play like a little kid in a sandbox, through and fro, without thinking too hard about why is this that and why is that this.

 

But there is something simply repulsing within me knowing that someone made the map not to convey any message, to offer a new sensation, but tried to out-match the other map on the scene. The whole industrialization of the mapping scene, maps made with utmost effeciency at mind, with no little details that could spell out that whoever made such maps is a human being with ideas and emotions and not a group of strange entities, just doesn't feel right to me.

 

I know, I know, play more megawads, see why the community likes them and yadda yadda. But when I think about it, my general in-experience regarding popular maps might not only help me one day, but help other people who want a different approach at their stuff, and once a "perfect map" is created, to know what to do next.

 

Til' then I would gladly enjoy smaller stuff in life, and make my own maps, and probably never release them, because I do not keep up to the standards and norms well enough to know what when and why.

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Doomworld is a place that flaunts the underbelly of progress with every waking moment; a place where everyone's a level designer. You, me and Dupree. Not everyone plays the content, however, or at least not to the extent that we can chisel out the shape of a classic from something that would ordinarily be glanced over because it doesn't look like BTSX — a ready-made masterwork. Why is this? Perhaps Good Morning Phobos is secretly a gem that we've let fly under the radar while the Ancient Aliens were stealing our attention and injecting us with foreign bodies like Mapper Envy? Probably not, but the situation is definitely such that we'll never find ourselves roosting over a 'classic' in the same way that we have done in the past, playing them repeatedly and arguing over the details like we only do with Doom 1 and 2 these days (how droll!)...

 

An outpouring of material on this scale means that while our heads are down and our hands are patting each other on the back for beating the clock and getting another ten high-profile 'community maps' under the belt this year, security is waving through the acolytes. I mean, this is great in one sense. Everyone gets a go; an introduction to the community and a fair crack at one of the countless projects that welcomes anyone and everyone to the fold! But the full-body scanners are bleeping, the levels are mediocre, and although we do acknowledge that The Rug is getting suspiciously fat we're simply too tied up in our own pitfalls and ideas to stop, prop and assess the merits of Nova 2, Depths of Doom or Mayhem 2016. We're not playing enough outside of some contextualized bubble like DWMC or Ironman to really talk about our experiences with others in a more grounded, visceral way. Newbies feed off of that sort of energy, and we're providing very little of it.

 

Take nothing away from this community with its industrious approach to change; we're always looking for new avenues to keep things fresh and do a very good job of it, even without that outside influence that @Memfis was talking about (a good point raised there, just quietly). But either through the inevitability of a growing influence or not, we've made a system where our 'run-of-the-mill' projects aren't offering the sort of eye-opening support the new guys need because our veterans are busy playing catch-up elsewhere and filling the interim with talk that frankly flies over the heads of everyone else. It's almost like we've outpaced ourselves with ideas and there are too many people who want to learn the trade!

 

Frankly, it's a problem I think we should be glad to have.

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Here's my take, as someone who is perhaps still fairly new on the scene, pretty unknown, but starting to get to a point where i am understanding my influences and find perhaps my own groove a bit now, and also actively always looks to improve. I am passionate about Doom mapping, i think it's an awesome creative outlet, it is so rewarding and i'm so glad i got into it. Not gonna lie, it would be awesome to win a cacoward for something i did, so why the fuck not work towards that?

 

In this era two highly regarded megawads are for example Sunlust and Ancient Aliens. Back in the day it was the likes of Scythe and Alien Vendetta that defined the era. The main difference between the eras is the visuals because all of these wads obviously play really well, hence why they are so highly regarded. I feel like visuals are now a prerequisite, rightly or wrongly, to even getting someone to notice and play a mapset off their own back - if you don't achieve that then it feels like you kind of have to go to people directly to see if they'll help you out with a playtest, and people don't always have the time (or interest?) in doing so.

 

It's so important because, at least what i am finding, is that making stuff look interesting is *relatively* easy i think. Creating good gameplay takes time because you have to go and play what you like, and try to understand what that mapper is doing that you enjoy, but then when you try to implement that you also need other opinions to see if you might have gone wrong somewhere. When you put the visual side and the gameplay side together, it's quite time consuming - so i think what i'm getting at, is that it's quite easy to focus on visuals at the detriment of gameplay these days because that is an easy sell in terms of getting attention.

 

So my approach to improving my mapping long term is that i've been slowly working on some vanilla maps (mentioned here) to try and focus entirely on the basic idea of making a fun map without all the 'distractions' of modern detailing, and get some good practice with the fundamentals in that way and hopefully maybe feedback on those important basics too. Then once that is done, i have an idea for something more extravagant and modern, with a new palette and all that good shit while being armed with this reinforced knowledge of the things that really matter. Maybe this approach is barking up the wrong tree, i dunno, but it seems like a fair way to go?

 

One thing i do think is a massive crutch is all these cp's that are around. There's loads of them! And a lot of them seem to have little to no quality control outside of very rudimentary things. They are mapsets that seem to exist purely for the sake of shunting out maps, often based around some gimmick or other. I think a lot of new mappers get bogged down in these projects because they are a pretty safe zone to put maps out with little fear of potentially getting panned by the community. Which is fine to a limited extent, but i think some don't dare to step outside of that comfort zone and this ultimately stifles progress and dilutes community content. Personally at one point i was signed up to a lot of these cp's and had to consciously remove myself from most of them to get out of that safe zone and focus on creating maps that do something new or that actually expresses myself as a mapper more directly. As an aside i recall seeing a post somewhere in which someone outright stated they wouldn't participate in Nova III because it is subject to quality control and they didn't want to deal with that - what a shame, and it underlines my point.

 

To address some OP points directly:

  • To be blunt i think there is an element of the old rose tinted specs with some of the issues raised - everyone has 'their' era.
  • With such an old game and a mass of content it becomes harder to find completely revolutionary ideas and approaches so the areas of innovation change. Maybe 15 years ago the focus was purely on maps, but i think now visuals have become the prime area for creating something radically different, and i didn't even go into the realms of mods or additions to the raw D2 monster arsenal.
  • Yes, i do think there are still influential mappers around, Skillsaw and Ribbiks the most obvious of them, and i know most of the mappers i take most inspiration from have releases within the last few years. I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of other newer mappers had the same opinion. I think influence is quite cyclical in creative endeavours.
  • It feels like speedrunning is less prevalent these days and i do wonder what impact that has on how people map. Perhaps 15 years ago there was more focus on that, but maybe now it is all about first impressions on some twitch stream or whatever.

 

Yeah, this was a bit of a meandering muse in the end, apologies but it all felt pretty relevant.

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For me, one way would be to focus on making the map itself, and the journey of it, different. There's a lot of focus on combat, which is the main reason a lot of people play Doom, in an arcadey way. But for mapping, making and testing fun encounters (subject to taste) is a part of it, but going new places with the maps themselves is another part of it.

 

I'll never get bored of the cool three key wing maps, or maps with a lot of raising platforms and passageways that feel like a labyrinth, but coming up with something that feels different from those usual scenarios and gameplay flow would be one way of making things feel different and new.

 

Some ways of doing that are more atmosphere based levels, or Quake 1/Half-Life inspired maps that are a bit more linear. Those are also cool, yet there might be a more "Doom" way of pulling this stuff off.

 

Also, in general, I think more mappers embracing ZDoom and having maps where you do some jumping and have more verticality would spice things up. Just some random ideas for my interests. I think the amount of quality stuff coming out is great, kudos to all the mappers out there.

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Interesting topic. 

 

My opinion is that there is a lot of competition, which can be a positive and negative thing for fairly obvious reasons. 

 

That said, I feel that my maps don't get done or don't get as sophisticated as I'd like because I'm intimidated by the community's talent. Do I believe that I could make (more, any) hood maps? Sure. But I admit that if I post a thread asking how to improve an aspect of my in-progress map or how to do a certain technique, I'll be rebuffed with "read the FAQ n00b" if I even get an answer. Sometimes, I just don't feel like sifting through pages of Google results to find the answer I need. 

 

To be fair, that's not an indictment of the community but a preconceived notion about how they'd respond to me. 

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Making maps for community projects is more productive than creating something big as own projects. I realize that by myself.

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I'm kind of confused by this thread. Looking at last year's Cacoward winners plus the wads from this year that will probably be Cacoward winners (some of which are by newish mappers, in both cases), I can't see any evidence for the idea that the community isn't making tons of good stuff anymore.

 

EDIT: And I don't just mean we're doing well because there are 10 good wads a year, because there are way more than that. The Cacowards is just a slice of it. I've spent last year and this year trying to keep up with all the good releases, and it's almost impossible. There are tons of them. Sure, there are only a handful of people as good as skillsaw, Ribbiks, and Mechadon, but when exactly were there more mappers that good than there are now? I can't remember a time like that. Lots of people are working their way up the ladder. Some of them will become great mappers, and some won't. Then you have people like tourniquet and Viggles who appear to just be magically perfect as soon as they show up.

 

9 hours ago, Alfonzo said:

we're simply too tied up in our own pitfalls and ideas to stop, prop and assess the merits of Nova 2

On the contrary, Nova 2 was an amazing megawad, and in case anyone missed it, here's me saying it yet again.

Edited by Not Jabba

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I am, myself, working towards fixing this.

 

To quote yakfak, "the community nailed down combat". Outside of some outliers like Cyberdreams, there is very little to do in regards to this. Other than the One True Way of Combat, everything is either in poor taste or gimmicky. And the Doomworld community does not deal well with gimmicks. This is good and this is bad, because while it teaches newbies how to make good combat, it funnels everything into playing very same-y.

 

Personally, I don't enjoy that facet much. Believe it or not, I don't play Doom WADs for the combat. Sure, some maps can make me go "This. This was so much fun." like Stardate 20x6's MAP03. But my biggest enjoyment is from looking at something and going "wow". Sunlust's MAP30, God Machine. Ancient Aliens, specially Culture Shock, that map in the clouds. Most of Golden Souls, some of Pirate Doom. Something that looks fresher than techbases and hell, you know. Yes, it's hard as hell to get a good idea for a map like these, which is sad.

 

There's one thing about those maps, though. They're all very, very abstract. There's a strong dose of surrealism going on in them. Not clocks-melting-in-the-heat surrealism, more like when you see something weird in your dream and just accept it. Familiar, yet alien. Alien, yet familiar. Something like this, where everything is as it should be:

Escher_Cube.png

 

And that, that intangible je ne sais quoi is what makes a map for me. The act of confusing two and three dimensions, or three and four. There is no need for the act of going up a staircase actually leading you to a higher point in your map. Why can't the ceiling be a floor? Should the sky be a rotating triangle? Does that structure serve a purpose, or does it exist only because the mapper's mind thought it was a good addition? Is this archway so awe-inspiring because there is a huge battle behind it?

 

And yes, I might look like a bit of a hypocrite, as things go right now, saying this while making very ribbiksy maps for NOVA 3. But if you knew what's on the backburner, since I took onto NOVA as a breather from Shrooms 2, oh boy. Hope you like your maps shroomy, because if Shrooms 2 doesn't even get mentioned in the cacowards when it's done... You guys will have to endure Shrooms 3. :)

 

Edit: Also, this gave me an idea for a community project. Take something terrible, like the concept of Terrywads. Excessive bad detail. Excessive edgyness. Abuse of barons of hell in combat. Grab some of these concepts, abuse them, and yet make something good out of it. Feel free to steal the idea and make it, don't even credit me. The opportunity for shaking the metaphorical community tree to make some fresh fruit fall out of it is more than enough payment for me.

Edited by Albertoni

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2 hours ago, Not Jabba said:

On the contrary, Nova 2 was an amazing megawad, and in case anyone missed it, here's me saying it yet again.

Oh, yeah, it's top stuff! Succeeds in overcoming a lot of the issues that you'd think foregone conclusions in a mapset of first-time level designers. The point I'm mostly trying to get across, though, is that we've fostered a culture of commitment through the accessible nature of our community projects and that means we don't talk as excitedly or play as much of this sort of material in a way that resonates with those first-time level designers.

 

Doom is in a good place at the moment; that bears repeating. Passing a critical eye over how we proceed and move forward is just so important.

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just a quick note to say that this discussion is fantastic.   I agree with Alfonso that Doom is in a good place right now....

 

 

 

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Thank you for the responses. A lot of great points were made.


On one hand, it is perhaps a perspective issue. Thank you Dragonfly and everyone else who cited recent great releases. Although I’ve played most of them, I was hopeful that there were at least a few things I didn’t play yet and there certainly are. Having talked to so many different guests on WXR, the talk about what are good maps and what are bad maps comes up pretty often. A few days ago I cast a line into the Wads & Mods pool and grabbed a bunch of random stuff to play. After a few hours of playing, a lot of what I hooked fit the model of most people’s “bad maps” nearly exactly. Granted it’s a pretty small sample size to test with, I was pretty disappointed with how I spent my limited time to play Doom and felt I would have been better off replaying Scythe 2.


So my question is less like “Why isn’t there any good stuff?” and more like “Why does bad stuff keep coming?”


An even more important question to ask is are new mappers getting the attention they need? Alfonzo is right on the money when he says the abundance of maps is a problem we are lucky to have. As someone who has always encouraged more people to get into mapping as often as possible, I’ve certainly gotten what I paid for. I suppose it’s very likely that if mapper’s aren’t getting much feedback, they will be more inclined to create the same things in the future. It’s also an interesting point of contention that scotty raises that Community Projects are a comfort zone for softer mappers and a disservice to those who have higher aspirations. In my personal experience playing community projects, I’m more likely to judge a map by the way it fits into the set than on the merits of the individual mapper who made it. I wonder if that’s damaging to the mappers’ egos in that way.


I have to raise a point however, about the thorough documentation of Doom-related information. The Doom Wiki is rife with technical specifications of Doom’s engine and game information. Doom has the cacowards, /newstuff reviews, DW Megawad club, independent Doom blog sites, thousands of great wads to reference, and the open discussions about level design that take place on this very forum. So it’s not likely that what needs to be said about people’s wads hasn’t been said. Rather, as rdwpa says, it’s a lack of specificity.


So do we need to play more Doom? It would certainly help. However, there are plenty of Youtube Let’s plays and live streams which suggest that Doom is still being played, and quite often too. Nine Inch Heels makes a compelling argument that if you have don’t have any nice criticism to give, giving no criticism at all isn’t a helpful alternative. Rather, it’s much more important to be thorough, even if it’s harsh. I don’t think that’s what mapper’s will say they want, but sometimes you want ice cream when you need your vegetables. A healthy dose of honesty can really shape a mapping career.


Can powering through mediocre maps have higher rewards? I certainly hope so. Battle_Kirby’s role-playing style of storybuilding while playing Doom sounds attractive, and shines light on a much more optimistic way of enjoying the game. I think I get that feeling when playing 1994 wads, when the window for leaving feedback has long been closed. I can enjoy the wad without the responsibility of giving the mapper advice and can enjoy the levels on their own merits without feeling as though I’m performing a civic duty. That’s a much more complicated problem to solve (if there even is one there.)


I appreciate all the thoughts people have on this particular topic. The more perspectives being shared the better. There’s a lot of important questions to call attention to and it’s very interesting hashing out the details!

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1 hour ago, 40oz said:

So my question is less like “Why isn’t there any good stuff?” and more like “Why does bad stuff keep coming?”


An even more important question to ask is are new mappers getting the attention they need?

A lot of thoughtful and interesting ideas in your posts here, but as to this...can we really expect there not to be bad maps?

 

No amount of attention, feedback, and nurturing is going to keep most people's first maps from being bad. If somebody posts their first map that's mostly square rooms with Cyberdemons in it and you're like "here's a post about how Revenants and Arch-Viles create conflicting movement demands," most of those new mappers are just going to be like "...what? I'm still trying to figure out how to make doors."

 

And there are a lot of people who are just picking up mapping. From what I've seen, the ones who stick around and make the effort get significantly better pretty quickly. I've seen the community provide tons of helpful, specific feedback to a lot of newbies' maps recently, including mine (thanks especially to @Fonze!). But if somebody is just starting out and their maps have lots of really broad issues, then they need really broad feedback, not really specific feedback. As they get the basic stuff down and the issues they have are more and more about fine-tuning, then they will need more and more specific feedback. But again, I haven't witnessed a lack of that. The /newstuff Review Center does still have a high percentage of bad maps -- as it always has -- but the thing is, many of the people making those maps have never shown up on the forum to get feedback or participate in community projects at all, and as a result, there isn't much we can do for them.

 

If you want to give really specific feedback to people and try to guide them through the mapping process, you also have to be aware of some of the meta-issues. For instance, the feedback you want to give about how to make the kind of maps you like may have nothing to do with the kind of map the person is actually trying to create. If you try to really get up close and personal in offering your guidance, it may lead to homogenizing people's mapping styles. But even that type of issue has been discussed on the forums many times, and I think we are generally aware of it.

Edited by Not Jabba : Added last paragraph

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46 minutes ago, 40oz said:

“Why does bad stuff keep coming?”

Because it's inherent to the mapping scene as a whole, and this is a thing that is present in many other areas. "90% of everything is crap", which isn't literally true, but it still applies to a certain extent even in Doom mapping. Last year when I used to write most (I guess) of the newstuff reviews the majority of the wads ranged from mediocre to bad, but of I found lots of interesting things though, even if in small glimpses. And if you play a bit with the "random file" on the archive you'll have a similar result. The average and the "bad" stuff will always overtop the small group of the more ambitious/competently made projects.

Perhaps the people who make the "bad" stuff don't care to impress an audience and to improve, they just want to have fun while putting some sectors together in the editor. And maybe they don't even know the there are elitists on a far away forum bashing their crap :)

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1 hour ago, Not Jabba said:

No amount of attention, feedback, and nurturing is going to keep most people's first maps from being bad. If somebody posts their first map that's mostly square rooms with Cyberdemons in it and you're like "here's a post about how Revenants and Arch-Viles create conflicting movement demands," most of those new mappers are just going to be like "...what? I'm still trying to figure out how to make doors."

...

 But if somebody is just starting out and their maps have lots of really broad issues, then they need really broad feedback, not really specific feedback. 

 

Lots of new mappers are noticeably more advanced than the one in your example, and don't have 'lots of really broad issues', but are nevertheless very far from reaching their potential, which is reflected by their releases. That was the focus of my post. 

 

I don't really think you believe I'd link that Cynical post to someone who posts a map of 1024x1024 rooms full of cybers connected by ugly doors.  

 

1 hour ago, Not Jabba said:

No amount of attention, feedback, and nurturing is going to keep most people's first maps from being bad. If somebody posts their first map that's mostly square rooms with Cyberdemons in it and you're like "here's a post about how Revenants and Arch-Viles create conflicting movement demands," most of those new mappers are just going to be like "...what? I'm still trying to figure out how to make doors."

...

 But if somebody is just starting out and their maps have lots of really broad issues, then they need really broad feedback, not really specific feedback. 

In the relevant paragraph in my post, I used the phrasing 'may (or may not) be helpful' and '... regardless of whether I apply it or consider it nonsense'. That was not accidental. As a mapper I think it's only useful to be exposed to a wide variety of knowledge, even when it isn't geared towards what you want to design at that particular moment. I consider a holistic education a good one. Also, I wasn't referring to playtesting feedback, but to theory posts, which is why that paragraph contains links to theory posts. 

 

I think you could have made your points without mischaracterizing mine. 

 

Edited by rdwpa

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7 minutes ago, rdwpa said:

I think you could have made your points without mischaracterizing mine. 

Sorry, I was responding to 40oz's post, and I pulled that one example from yours because he semi-cited it. I don't think I disagree with anything you wrote in the context/wording in which you wrote it.

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I'm not qualified (yet) to give decent input on this topic but I find this thread very interesting. I wish I wasn't on this mobile connection anymore (soooon) so I could try out a lot more wads to get a better idea of the good - bad ratio.

 

I think gaspe was right with this though:

 

2 hours ago, gaspe said:

Perhaps the people who make the "bad" stuff don't care to impress an audience and to improve, they just want to have fun while putting some sectors together in the editor. And maybe they don't even know the there are elitists on a far away forum bashing their crap :)

 

It pretty much comes down to how high standards are in certain departments and wether the creator is willing to raise them by investing the necessary time and effort. I personally can not stand misaligned textures (in any game), if I spot it too many times, I end up getting annoyed unless the gameplay is so good I forget about it.

 

I will be putting up my first map for critique later this week and I'm looking forward to it, hurt me plenty!

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Getting feedback from experienced mappers and players is important. I was lucky to have folks like dobu and Ribbiks commenting and giving feedback on my first maps, and it meant a lot to me. Not only the specific bits of feedback, but just that they took the time to play and post some thoughts was encouraging. rdwpa does a great job at giving lengthy, well-considered feedback, for example. I'd like to see some more FDAs and feedback in random threads from you, 40oz. ;)

 

I think encouragement is important. People talk about "harsh" or "brutally honest" feedback as being important, but I think that's a bit misguided. All you gotta do is "be critical," which means talking about what you liked and disliked, what you thought worked and didn't work. People say "don't pull your punches" or whatever, but critiques aren't punches, unless you're tying to make them punches, so I think the metaphor is unhelpful. The purpose of criticism is to help people improve at whatever they're doing, and if a creator walks away from a critique with less motivation than before, the critique was not good. Maybe being "brutally honest" works with someone that you know well, but if we're talking about newcomers, it's probably the wrong approach. That's why I try to be encouraging, while giving a few leads for the author to work on, if they're interested. At the end of the day, it's all in the author's hands. As a critic, being able to gauge what sort of feedback will be helpful to the author is an important skill. Perhaps it's not even helpful to tell newcomers that their "vanilla" ZDoom map should work in other ports, and that if they want to stick with ZDoom they should use more advanced features, or whatever. Maybe what they really need is some advice on how to make their fights more fun, because making fights is the fun part! And worrying about different sourceports and map formats probably isn't fun for a lot of people. If they remain motivated to make fun maps, learning about different compatibility issues and advanced features will come naturally.

 

So yeah, record FDAs/videos (because watching someone play your maps is a great way to learn, and it's also fun, which is important!), be encouraging, offer some of the most relevant bits of advice that you have at the time to make their map more fun, and save the less-important or more-nuanced advice rest for their next map. That's what I try to do. I dunno if it's the best way to do it, but it feels right to me, based on the reasoning above.

 

 

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On 6/17/2017 at 11:38 PM, Albertoni said:

Edit: Also, this gave me an idea for a community project. Take something terrible, like the concept of Terrywads. Excessive bad detail. Excessive edgyness. Abuse of barons of hell in combat. Grab some of these concepts, abuse them, and yet make something good out of it.

Is it bad that I was thinking of making a kind of wad exactly like this yesterday before even seeing this thread? :D I don't want to give any spoilers (not that there are many to give since it is just in the concept stage atm and might be for a while) but think of it sort of like an anti Terry wad where doom guy is the one doing all the stupid shit to that guy you see pasted all over the terry trap rooms (don't know his name since I haven't really been part of the community for very long) but instead of just being a bunch of loud noises and stupid messages about raping your asss and shit you have to go through various levels chasing him down :) Then at the end you kill him and reap the rewards if you know what i mean hehe.

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Sometimes I make a map and I think the map is good

 

Then I play some megawad like Valiant and I realized my map is shit

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Just to throw a little more fuel on the fire/offer my perspective as a newer player:

 

There are twenty years of maps to draw from, but there are also twenty years' worth of maps to play, which I feel like might be a problem for feedback? A lot of new people are being drawn to the game, but how many are checking out current wads? Most people will go through all four iwads first; I've picked up one megawad from 2016, but otherwise the rest of what I have lined up are classics I've yet to play: the Scythes, the Plutonia 2s, etc. I'm certainly not dipping into anything bleeding edge at the moment.

 

All of that is time that could be going toward playing and providing feedback for new content. I often see posts here (there are a handful every few pages in the "Confessions" thread, for example), expressing sentiments along the lines of, "Oh, I haven't played X classic wad yet," so this doesn't seem to be a rare sentiment. People are looking for guaranteed quality, and I think also feel a pressure to move through older, highly regarded wads.

 

Veteran members are going to filter out of communities all the time. But new players are almost always going to make those highly vaunted stops first. So even if there's an influx of mappers and players, there might be an attrition of active critique?

 

I think quite a bit about level design and well-crafted challenge when playing Doom, or any video-game, and am fairly critical (that's one of the ways I actually enjoy games; I'm the total opposite of the "95% roleplay" post up above). I feel like I could and would probably even enjoy grabbing recent works for feedback more often, but I'm still reaching for those older titles.

 

Compounding that is the fact that playing Doom maps takes time. I play without saves, which means maps of reasonable knockabout-style difficulty that take a few attempts can take 60 minutes to beat blind. I have no idea how people play through an entire megawad in a week, unless it's quite easy. (Then again, I have a full-time job, so students might be able to spare more bandwidth, though I wouldn't recommend most people do it just for a game.) I feel like that's the best way to play (especially with pistol starts) for feedback, as it lets you understand the whole flow of the level--the frustrating portions, the ones that remain fun on replay--but that's a serious timesink. Without it, I imagine critique is iffy. People who do blow through new release after new release--unless they're pros and can quickly assess what they're looking for--I wonder how well they're able to critique. (Not trying to cast any aspersions here; that's a genuine concern; save-stating or idqding your way through wad after wad surely can't be the best way to offer level-design tips unless you have a majorly trained eye; visual design, maybe.)

 

Bigger projects or maps from veteran members will have dedicated playtesters of course, but it seems like the amount of good commentary available to the vast majority of new mappers is probably not in lock-step with the amount of users. As the years go on, there might even be an inverse relationship. And then you start adding maps that require someone with a high skill for solid critique, and you're reducing the amount of viable feedback even more.

 

I'm not sure what to do about that. But it seems worth pointing out. There are more and more users, but new people are encouraged to play older stuff (which is new to them) as veterans leave, and playing Doom levels takes time. There probably isn't a great solution other than to encourage people toward new releases rather than continually offering classics, but then you're also not raising community skill caps or encouraging historical reference.

 

Food for thought. This wound up being more of a problem-oriented post than a solution-oriented one, so I'm sorry. Maybe I'm also only speaking for myself and other newer players are picking up loads of hyper-recent wads.

Edited by Cipher

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