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Outdoor Areas... How do you design them?


So I'm having trouble trying to get into the mindset required for making an outdoors level.

Specifically, I have no idea how they are structured.


Like for example, I had an idea where I wanted a map to lead outside into a courtyardish area with cliffs on the edges. Well, it ended up looking like garbage. I couldn't figure out how to incorporate the building the player left from with the cliffs, and it just looked weird and boxy and ugly.


When I try to make it look random like a natural location would, it ends up almost always looking like this:


Which is terrible.


I know this post kind of feels rambly and incoherent, but hopefully I got the problem I'm having across.

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Spend a bunch of time looking at maps with well designed outdoor areas both in-game and in the editor. You'll pick up things like I referred to in this post. It's also pretty useful for getting the hang of what types of shapes you can tdraw.


When I draw outdoor areas I don't draw contiguously, usually. Like for an area like this:




I'd probably start by drawing the facade of the building (green) as a freestanding set of lines attached to the indoor area (where the arrow leads). Then likewise for the brown rock walls (one-sided linedefs that are the core of the outdoor area). There are no outdoor sectors yet. I might decide I want those rock walls to be intersected by waterfalls, so those get filled in. Note that all of the line shapes suggest transitions between various materials. You see the angle at the juncture of the facade and the rocky structure adjacent to it. The lighter brown stuff are two-sided lines corresponding to rocky sectors of various heights. Blue are my pools of water. By the end though I'd have all the sectors closed. (Arrows just point to where other areas are but aren't drawn here.)


There are a lot of ways you can design outdoor areas -- this is one of many. I think this one is a mix of both simple enough to use as an example and complex enough to have a few techniques worth learning.


In your 2D overhead, I'd draw the lines differently, but at minimum I'd peel the building and rock both back just a bit to create clear separation between the materials, so the building facade appears as a 3D structure jutting out of the rock. It doesn't have to be too pronounced -- even a 32 or so unit peelback would do. Example:






Edited by rdwpa

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Another good piece of advice is always be aware of how the Doom engine renders sky. Never let a wall against the void be in a position where it crosses in front of other geometry in the distance or else you will get sky showing where your building should be. Either make the walls higher than the buildings, or make the walls be a sector that is just raised high and leave some space between it and void.

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When I wanted to learn more about outdoor areas, I found things like BSTX, Valiant, Vanguard and even E1M1 very useful to study. But there's plenty of other quality maps I could have learnt from. Pick something you think is done well, and open it in Doombuilder's 3D mode and have a really good look at it.



The use of different sky ceilings heights really help to seperate the buildings from each other and the surrounding rock work.

The edges of the main building extend quite far into unreachable areas and help reinforce the illusion that this is an actual building rather than just a facade.



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