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GoatLord

Philosophy of Doom: The Three Tenets of Good Design

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What makes or breaks a Doom map, while subjective, can also be broken down into three fundamental components, which must work in tandem to achieve a satisfying experience. If any of these tenets are neglected, the result is imbalance. In many ways, these concepts can apply to a number of different game genres, although the focus here, obviously, is on first person shooting, and specifically, classic Doom.

 

1: AESTHETIC

The entire experience of a map is initially informed by the first few moments of gameplay, which is why aesthetic comes first. What is the mapper's take on texturing, lighting, scale, detail, theme, mood, sound design? Regardless of how well designed the map is, it needs to look good, and this is not a superficial requirement; rather, it's integral to drawing the player in. A solid layout will suffer if the mapper has no artistic eye, focuses too much on minor details, or fails to take advantage of the possibilities of light and shadow. It is also incredibly important to maintain consistency when implementing new graphics and sound/music, or utilizing source-port specific features, which in some cases can cause major clashing, such as insisting on unnecessarily high resolution textures and/or detailed 3D models.

 

2: EXPLORATION

If aesthetic immerses the player, then the layout provides the impetus to explore. A good layout is dependent less on whether it's linear or non-linear, and more on structural flow. If a map is too linear, then it offers little replay value as each playthrough will be largely similar. If a map is too non-linear, it can become overwhelming and confusing to the point that the player has little motivation to replay. In either case, one must take into consideration where a map branches off, how extensive those branches are, and what relationship (if any) they have to the primary route, such as backtracking, looping or simply providing multiple ways to reach the same target (such as a key or switch). It's also important to not let aesthetic take the wheel, as a beautiful set piece is not automatically fun to explore. Contrarily, if a good layout is given too much emphasis over aesthetic, then the result is a map that is fun to explore, but lacks immersion.

 

3: ENGAGEMENT

Encompassing both puzzles and combat, engagement is the third pillar, and can only be considered once the first two have been established. If aesthetic captures the player's attention, and exploration motivates progression, then puzzles and combat must serve to maintain the player's attention so they are more likely to complete the map. It becomes a chicken/egg situation in terms of how much puzzles and combat are influenced by the layout, and vice versa, but in either situation balance is integral, perhaps more so here than the other two pillars. Puzzles should be intuitive, but not insultingly easy. Locating the key to a color-coded door or discovering what new passage has been revealed by a switch should be challenging, but not feel like a chore. Combat should strive to find a balance between weapon, ammo, and monster placement, as well as how conducive the layout is to battling at short or long range.

 

In the future, I'd like to use this three-tiered philosophy to examine all of the classic Doom maps, in an attempt to objectively (as possible) describe what does/does not work about them. I find it interesting that certain maps, such as The Chasm, Mt. Erebus and Hell Beneath, are consistently disliked by much of the community, owing to one or more of these pillars being neglected.

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I honestly tried to ind thing about this that might need alterations or that I disagree with but fell short as this is basically my mapping process. Make or at least idealize the map before working on texture placement and usage (being sure to check again and again throughout the process) then work with secrets and provide incentive to find the. Combat must compliment the level so naturally it should come last. There can much to consider with ranges of combat especially if one is using a weapon mod that maybe favor a specific weapon type. 

 

Good stuff goat lord.

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It's something I've been thinking about in my mapping process, as well. I've been mapping since 2012 but would keep abandoning projects, overworking others, or just getting too ambitious. Mapping has given me a lot of time to think about why a map is fun, and how the different elements of fun are interwoven.

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Abstract architecture is a must. It effectively multiplies the level's atmosphere. 

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9 hours ago, GoatLord said:

What makes or breaks a Doom map, while subjective, can also be broken down into three fundamental components, which must work in tandem to achieve a satisfying experience. If any of these tenets are neglected, the result is imbalance.

That, too, is subjective.

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9 hours ago, GoatLord said:

It's something I've been thinking about in my mapping process, as well. I've been mapping since 2012 but would keep abandoning projects, overworking others, or just getting too ambitious. Mapping has given me a lot of time to think about why a map is fun, and how the different elements of fun are interwoven.

Been there. I have a couple of maps that are dead because they were our of my reach. Come to think of it, all I had in mind when I started was the theme. I guess I didn't consider the other functional elements that theme begged for(i.e Factory needing conveyors, vats, vents, etc). I had built half of the level before thinking of where I would put everything and it all just became a mess where everything kind of looked tacked on.

 

Another issue with my is that I am not a big fan of maps with too much texture variance. While that is in the eye of the beholder, it is however my preference to keep texture more consistent and low in number. This is another possible reason I let go of the factory level. I like old hell looking maps(fire and brimstone if you will) with bricks and cages and torment.

 

As for what @scifista42 said, branching out from that, all things in the OP can be considered subjective. I do feel like GoatLord did a good job of outlining basic importance in maps as he has been at it for a while. I didn't mean this to sound like a rebuttal. I merely wanted to point out the subjectivity. These 'pillars' could easily be amended/supplemented by any mapper and their style(think people who love/hate puzzle or slaughter maps) as not every style will come with the same demands or even in the same order. 

 

 

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It's true that it's subjective, as each mapper has a different goal for their project. But I do feel this philosophical position can work generally, and approaches objectivity in the sense that classic Doom maps can be easily viewed through this three-tiered lens. I also used the word "puzzle" loosely to just mean, getting from point A to point B, meaning that it can be very straightforward (as in a slaughter map) or as complex as the author sees fit (some of Doom 2's later levels come to mind, such as Downtown). At the end of the day, I think that respecting aesthetic, exploration, and engagement are utterly critical to good mapping, but the author can interweave the elements to their liking.

Edited by GoatLord

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I wholeheartedly agree with the tree basic tenets. I'll add this: Within the "Engagement" pillar, one of the things that should generally be factored in, is the role of luck. After all, this is a game we're talking about, and in every game there needs to be an element of luck. Requiring just skill, to the exclusion of all else, reduces a game to play-by-numbers. The greater the skill, of course, the less reliance on luck. But some point in-between would likely be the sweet spot.

 

Having said that, DooM has built-in features (such as the random number generators for accuracy & damage) that automatically create a roll of the dice. But that's not normally within the control of the typical mapper.

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Yes, luck is important. When I play through one of my maps over and over, I try to take note of how different each round is. Sometimes I'll get killed almost immediately, and other times flawlessly navigate through the whole thing in a few moments. I think it's important to recognize when this happens, because it means that not only is the non-linearity a source of replay value, but so is the way engagement can have surprising results.

 

I also wanted to mention that, while I put aesthetic first, I don't necessarily mean that you should be thinking about lighting and texturing immediately into the mapping process, since you want to start out with a basic layout and build from there. What I mean is you should know, from the get-go, what the mood and theme of your map is, so that when you do begin emphasizing texturing and lighting, you'll have a better chance at maintaining consistency and coherency.

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