Freedoom's first level

So, I recently wrote up a post dissecting the design of Doom's E1M1 and I've inevitably been looking at Freedoom's first level through a similar lens. Although I don't have anything against Jon's level as such - it's a very nice level - I've been wondering if it's appropriate as the first level of the game. Specifically, I wonder if it might be advisable to incorporate some of the design principles of Doom's E1M1 in order to give a gentler introduction to the game.

Some of my criticisms are:

  • I particularly like how Doom's E1M1 starts new players in a "sandpit" where they can get used to the controls safely. By contrast, Freedoom's first level starts with the player immediately open to attack from a zombie.
  • Similarly, Doom's E1M1 introduces monsters gradually in a way that a new player can deal with them easily - by contrast, in Freedoom's E1M1, after going through the first door, on the default skill setting you're immediately set upon by four pistol zombies and two shotgun zombies. It doesn't seem like much of a gradual introduction.
  • Doom's E1M1 teaches players to avoid damaging floors, and Freedoom does the same. But Freedoom doesn't give the player any safe route across the slime.
  • There are quite a few concepts that you're presented with playing this level - you have to learn how about switches, elevators, damaging floors - but you're never actually taught how to open a normal door (the door at the start is opened via a switch).
  • I can't shake the feeling that there are just too many damn monsters for the first level of a game.
Some of these criticisms can probably be dealt with fairly straightforwardly just by tweaking the level as it stands at the moment (eg. cutting back the number of monsters). Others would require more structural changes. The other alternative is to create a new "first level" and move this to eg. the second level. But I do like this level and I'd quite like to see it remain as Freedoom's first level - it certainly looks very nice and I'd like to keep it if possible.

Looking at the larger picture I think there's also a broader need to look at and adjust the difficulty levels of Freedoom's levels to give a smoother progression for new players. I think part of the problem is that the levels are made by level designers who have been playing Doom for years and therefore have higher expectations for what a player ought to be able to deal with.

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Yes, I agree to this, Freedoom is too hard for players that haven't been playing Doom before.

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Well, if you look at my vanilla freedoom project, I removed all shotgun guys from levels lower than hard, and it would be a simple matter to get rid of the pistol men in the starting area. In addition, I also made the bridge continuous and raised the slime by default right under the bridge, and made the basement an optional room. Maybe that's more true start level?

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Even though way more people are used to FPS game I don't see a reason not to make the first map more user friendly. The "sandpit" could probably quite easily be added to the west/north west of the current starting position. Zombimen could be placed where the current player starts are. The zombiman that sees you right from the start could be replaced with an imp that is constrained by monster blocking lines.

Looking at the larger picture I think there's also a broader need to look at and adjust the difficulty levels of Freedoom's levels to give a smoother progression for new players.

Another example is map02. It's a great map, but maybe a tad too open/non-linear for such an early slot.

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*** I agree ***
Seem to have run out of places to move levels to, Level 2 is already
a new custom level.

Problems:
1. No chance to explore before first monsters are upon you.
2. Lack of ammo at start.
3. Shotgun guys are tough.
4. Shotgun guys are placed in advantageous positions so they get the first shot.
5. Secret switch much too hard to find (I could not find it even with an editor)
6. Raise slime level and then expect to walk on it. Really wrong and
teaches wrong thing about slime.
7. Falling rock at start that is so confusing as to what it is, and what happened. that it detracts from the experience right at the start. It looks like a clipping error (wall suddenly appears), and I kept looking to see how badly the display engine was going to mess up.
8. Can only open first door from one side.

Picky things:
100. First H pad is indoors (hole in roof). Maybe something like a
space car could use it, but never a helicopter. Maybe should have a "P" for parking spot, or a reserved parking sign. (and this does bug me every time I see it)
101. Outdoor trees on a moon, makes it look like earth (another discussion, but if those trees were in indoor it works either way).
102. Fails to set the location as a mars moon.
103. What in the heck is it: a terminal, industrial, ??
104. Extraneous upper textures (mess up OpenGL).
105. Mysterious, unreachable, deathmatch areas.

Like-ables:
200. Shooting through broken windows.
201. Second outdoor H pad with doors.
202. Nice stairs.

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7. Falling rock at start that is so confusing as to what it is, and what happened. that it detracts from the experience right at the start. It looks like a clipping error (wall suddenly appears), and I kept looking to see how badly the display engine was going to mess up.


This one right here is big. I never noticed that falling rock until just a few days ago, and then I couldn't tell what happened so I had to reload, twice, to finally get a sense of what was going on ; and it still looked hacky.

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OHHH... SO that's what that was! (About the falling rock.) I always wondered what that was and made me go wtf every single time.

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wesleyjohnson said:

5. Secret switch much too hard to find (I could not find it even with an editor)


I disagree with this. The switch opens up a region of the map that offers nothing to SP/coop play. It's only useful in DM, and only if nobody has already spawned in the corridor (since it opens for them and stays open in that case). That whole corridor is only there to improve flow in DM.

Your editor-fu is strong, young wesleyjohnson, but you are not a Jedi yet.

wesleyjohnson said:

102. Fails to set the location as a mars moon.


Because it isn't :)

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Some things would work on any other level, but first level is introductory to new players. Very frustrating, and leads them to believe that the game is broken, or they just don't understand it.
It would not hurt the play any to open up those DM areas, to the single player. Then they can explore them and not have any more issues.
That hidden switch would be nasty to find on any high level.

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wesleyjohnson said:

Some things would work on any other level, but first level is introductory to new players. Very frustrating, and leads them to believe that the game is broken, or they just don't understand it.
It would not hurt the play any to open up those DM areas, to the single player. Then they can explore them and not have any more issues.
That hidden switch would be nasty to find on any high level.


But there's no point finding that area in SP, at all. It should be entirely invisible. It's not marked as a secret. There's nothing to pick up. It's existence makes no impact on 100% runs, speed runs, or anything else. If it's showing on the automap, that's a bug. If a player is looking at a map editor and wondering what the region is, they are not new, inexperienced players.

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I don't mean to come off as insulting, but I never particularly cared for any of Freedoom's level design. I always thought that as a free version of Doom, it should carry as many of Doom's traits as possible right down to the way the levels are crafted. I feel like too many of Freedoom's levels are overly complex and detailed and crafted in a way that makes them tricky to navigate and remember. This is of course just my opinion and I don't expect everyone to agree. The levels aren't bad, but in my opinion they aren't fitting for a game that's supposed to serve as a free replacement for Doom.

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If you want something simpler, there's this vanilla episode:
http://www.doomworld.com/idgames/index.php?id=16691

Edit: btw, if you have any ideas for improvements, bug fixes, or would like to contribute to the cause, check out the related thread:
http://www.doomworld.com/vb/freedoom/58026-vanilla-freedoom-maps/
The maps are 100% pure vanilla (not even limit removing), just like the original IWAD from 1993. Of course these maps aren't as good, but maybe in time it will get better... :)

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chubz said:

I always thought that as a free version of Doom, it should carry as many of Doom's traits as possible right down to the way the levels are crafted. [...] The levels aren't bad, but in my opinion they aren't fitting for a game that's supposed to serve as a free replacement for Doom.

You have misunderstood the purpose of the project.

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Yay people like my episode :D (I'm still working on it to improve all the maps, and already have 4 maps each for episode 2 and 3)

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