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Just a general question, what makes for good level design? Not necessarily just Doom, but other games. I'm not asking about detail and such, but what consitutes a generally good level? How does one design a good level? What is the best level?

Old Post Aug 16 2008 21:33 #
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Graf Zahl
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That's very hard to define.

I, for example, like large and complex levels you can play for an hour. As such, my personal favorites are MAP07 of Nimrod, Z1M3 of KDiZD and the ZDCMP. But I'll bet that there's many others who can't enjoy them for the exact same reasons.

Old Post Aug 16 2008 21:49 #
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Well, obviously there really isn't a "best level" since everybody has different preferences; some prefer small, fast-paced maps, while others prefer longer, more complicated maps. Some like a mental challenge, while others just like mindlessly blasting shit. However, there are some things that good levels in any game more or less have in common. For instance, I think most people prefer a certain degree of nonlinearity in levels, even small ones. Also, people like challenge, but it needs to be the right kind of challenge; in other words, not the kind of challenge that comes from fighting 20 cyberdemons in total darkness with only a chainsaw, or from running around a big repetitive maze. (I hate mazes, personally.)

Just a couple things for you right now. :)

Old Post Aug 16 2008 21:51 #
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I really like large maps, theme is important too. Atmosphere and immersion is what makes a game for me really. Coupled with pants ripping game play of course. ;)

Old Post Aug 16 2008 22:10 #
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I like big levels that I can explore or solve in multiple ways. Both of these are becoming scarce in new games...not that I'd know too much about new NEW games I guess. MMOs especially get away with terrible, forgettable levels, which only function as a setting for grinding.

Old Post Aug 16 2008 22:49 #
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Non-linear designs really get me going. It essentially makes a level seem more expansive, or at least more "realistic." Obviously in real life there are many ways to approach a situation. If you were -really- assaulting a demon-infested moon base, you'd have to decide where to enter, and how to not get lost inside. Levels that are just a series of rooms and hallways don't give you any decisions to make, nor areas that make you want to keep exploring.

Since we're talking about Doom, I must say that, to me, the MOST IMPORTANT part is action. I enjoy wiping out legions of monsters with rockets and plasma, just as well as I enjoy small (but tight) encounters. The real point is, does the action excite me? Almost any fight can be ruined by a few things:

- Being overstocked, or understocked. Being forced to punch guys out can be fun, but it's no good without a rewarding box o' shells or something afterward. Similarly, there's no challenge in holding down your BFG trigger until it stops hitting stuff.

- Knowing exactly what will happen. Dying and starting over usually contributes to the memorization of a level, but even so, enemies can be placed strategically. It's especially bad when woken enemies get clogged up in a corner (map designers must always think of how the AI works!)

- Repetition. I love mindless violence. Pumping possessed humans full of lead will never get old. However, it sucks when every fight is the same, such as "Open door, shoot inside." Or how about "Walk over trap line, turn around and shoot." Even traps can get repetitive and uninteresting.

So those are a few of my to-not-do's. One big thing that I think makes a level great is if the author manages to keep you hurtin', runnin', scared as hell, worried about your ammo, and always checkin' your six, WITHOUT killing you over and over. Of course that's the most difficult balance to strike, but it's worthwhile in my opinion. Some levels you can run through pumping your shotty, others you have to memorize each encounter and execute it perfectly, saving each time. The best levels lie in-between, where you are punished for mistakes but don't feel like you should start over.

Old Post Aug 16 2008 23:49 #
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Okey-Dokie, here goes. I think the most critical thing to do in a map is create an interesting environment to fight in. Slaughtering imps with the SSG in a square, mono-textured room is boring. Slaughtering the same horde in a Hell temple full of lava falls, light variation, and other interesting things to look at is fun, because you get immersed into the map this way. Your reward for killing everything is getting to see more of the cool environment. The next important thing is making sure that the map flows. It should always be clear where to go next, IMO. Also, the player should always feel like all the fights have a solution. Even extremely challenging fights should appear to have enough resources and space, so the player is confident he or she can overcome the challenge with enough attempts. The next thing to concentrate on, IMO, is the gameplay itself. The gameplay should be something that is engaging. The best way to do this, IMO, is to set up the scenarios so that the player has to keep doing different things instead of "open door, slauther horde. repeat...".

Here's some of my other personal preferences. I like standalone maps to be decently large, taking about 15-30 minutes to complete. I like megaWADs to have mostly short maps with a few large ones throughout, so it seems concise and doesn't drag on. I don't like non-linear maps, since I tend to get lost without fail. I like maps that interconnect well, but still have only a single thingto be doing, or else only two ways to go at one. I like the gameplay to be challenging enough that I can't just cruise through the map. I find it most rewarding when you die repeatedly, because I feel a sense of accomplishment from analyzing the fights and figuring out how to overcome them. In terms of aesthetics, I like things that are unusual, when the author tries to prove how amazing their vision is. I like seeing familiar themes too, but with a new touch to grab my attention and interest.

I know this is all opiniated, but I hope it's still useful nonetheless. ;)

Old Post Aug 17 2008 01:28 #
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I pretty much agree with everything said here. As a gamer and mapper, I tend to have the same preferences (I map what I would like to play), which is usually for large, challenging, and non-linear levels. Particularly important for me is a visually interesting, immersing environment, having multiple choices, and room to run around. Some of my favorite themes include:

crisp, clean, greyish techbases (cc3 map29 kicks ass, doom e1)

rusty, run-down industrial maps (map06 and map12, suspended in dusk, kdizd...)

weird spacious elemental maps (dirt, grass, wood, water, etc) like cc3's Mucous Flow and Sodding Death

dark vast underworldly maps (maps 23, 24, 29)

bright firey/fleshy hellmaps that actually feel like the inner depths of hell (map28)

I'm pretty much rambling vaguely now so I'll just stop. Anything that actually has the mapper's vision well portrayed (if they had a good idea to begin with), and feels fun/scary/interesting to be in is good for me.

Old Post Aug 17 2008 03:00 #
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Christoph said:
crisp, clean, greyish techbases (cc3 map29 kicks ass, doom e1)

CC3 Map 29 was "For we are Many" by Matt Tropiano, an overgrown temple-like/organic slaughter map with some 1300+ enemies. I think you mean CC2 MAP 29, "Event Horizon" by Boris, which fits your description. ;-)

Speaking of which, "For we are Many" is a good example of a "best level ever." It nailed the atmosphere it's title suggests, had a very interesting aesthetic design that is engaging to explore, and despite its size, was generally pretty obvious where to go next and had gameplay challenges that were satisfying to overcome, but managable for a map that long. And it even stays below the SEG limit by some miracle. I often refer people to this map who like making huge, detailed maps crammed with SEGs to get an idea of a good way to do it.

Old Post Aug 17 2008 03:21 #
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Yeah that is the map I was referring to. I think I meant cc2 rather than cc3 for all those maps mentioned, but I'm not saying there aren't awesome maps elsewhere.

Old Post Aug 17 2008 13:08 #
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Probably the best attributes to make a good map are:

-Non linearity: it's boring seeing all the areas shaped the same way...
-Visuals: not excessive details and non-completely flat rooms...
-Gameplay: not repetitive and interesting, with a moderate amount of monsters.

Some of the best maps i've ever played are: the ZDCMP1, then some of Phobus' maps, such as Scars Of The Wounded prey, Coils of the Twisted Tale, Warpzone. Then Vader's two Thunderpeak maps are probably the greatest maps ever played so far. Impressive details, but not excessive, moderate amount of monsters, objectives to achieve...

These are my opinions.

Old Post Aug 17 2008 13:29 #
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I love maps that have really good architecture. DD said it best, about killing imps in a grey square, vs. killing imps in a huge beautifully laid out area. So on that note:

AV lvl 11. The one with the huge marble city on the mountain top. Had one of those Doom "moments" while playing it. Awesome.

Yesterday.wad by Ray Schmitz. Good gameplay, but again, the architecture is some of the best I have seen.

Vrack2b.wad Huge, sprawling spaceport level. lotsa monsters, tough, beautiful layout.

MM2 level 6 always freaked me out. Still one of my favorite levels. This is gonna sound weird, but I have actually had several nightmares where I later realised that level was the backdrop for the nightmare.

Anyway, What do all these levels have in common. Beautiful design and intense gameplay.

As a mapper, I see the careful planning that has gone into making these levels as good as they are.

[Edit] Just downloaded CC3 this evening, and began playing through it. Did the first 7 levels or so. And i gotta say. Dutch devil's "Ion Storm" (Map 02) blew me away. If you want an example of exactly what makes a level truly stand out, go play that one. Great fights and superb detailing and architecture. That said, all the CC3 levels have been very high quality so far.

Last edited by Kyka on Aug 17 2008 at 20:44

Old Post Aug 17 2008 16:41 #
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I've posted this before but what he hell...

Philosophy – what a good map should include:

Theme: Maps should have consistent themes. I will consider this before any other detail. Themes can usually accommodate most map layouts, so nothing needs to be accommodated when the theme is decided. Doom2 Example: Downtown

Set Pieces: Every level must have at least one ‘choreographed’ battle. This should be considered next as the level will then be built around it. More elaborate set pieces can result in portions of the map to become linear.
Doom2 Example: Tricks and Traps.

Level Flow: A good layout to a map is vital. It should be possible, when all keys and switches have been done, to get from any one part of the map to another reasonably fast. You should be able to see places you’re yet to visit and a degree of non-linearity should be encouraged. A good layout prevents a map from becoming simply a series of rooms. The map layout will be drawn when the theme has been decided and set pieces considered. Areas should be positioned but detail within the areas is not important at this stage.
Doom2 Example: Circle of Death.

Thing Placement: Important thing placements can be added to the sketches of maps but, because at this point only the layout of the map as a whole has been drawn and not the layout of individual areas, most thing placements will be considered at editing stage. Thing placement is extremely important to get right as it determines the balance of game play. Rigorous testing should be done to make sure thing placement is spot on.
Doom2 Example: Dead Simple.

Landmark: Good architecture is not as important as level flow, thing placement or set pieces in making a level playable but it does add identity to your maps. For this reason at least one ‘landmark’, that is to say a unique piece of architecture, should be included in every map. Doom2 Example: The Crusher.

Detail: Detailing, when separated from layout and architecture, becomes almost superfluous to how your level will play. However, some details should be included as it adds atmosphere to your map and allows the players to better immerse themselves into the game. Most important is effectively and neatly applying and aligning textures - keeping in consideration your theme. More detail can then be added.
Doom2 Example: Inmost Dens

Lighting: An absorbing atmosphere is even more so attributable to good lighting. Many aspects of the Doom world can be unreal or illogical but lighting in most cases should be placed to reflect how it would appear in reality. Ways should be considered to mix a good contrast of light and dark areas. Though dark/dim arrears are often most atmospheric these should be used with a degree of restraint to avoid overuse.
Doom2 Example: Waste Tunnels

Old Post Aug 17 2008 21:17 #
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I like maps that are very complex and just about every room intersects with other rooms in the form of windows, doors or the like. A really good example of this is the map 2complex. For me it was fun because all the rooms were connected to each other and you would eventually go through a room that you were in before but new ways to go would be open.

Generally in levels I like to see a good story and connectivity between the next and previous level. Not necessarily in Doom but other games as well. I do not really care about how good it looks as long as there is an awesome story and plays well. Emphasis on playing well.

Old Post Aug 18 2008 14:10 #
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