Why is height variation so important to some people?

One thing I sometimes hear from some people who are playing maps (either on the forums or in the /idgames reviews) is that they can't stand playing maps that have limited or little height variation. Why is that?

Don't get me wrong, maps that have literally no height variation aren't likely to be very interesting, but its almost as if some people can't even force them self's to play anything that doesn't have lots of height variation in almost every single room.

I personally don't mind the lack of height variation so long as the gameplay and action is interesting and fun. I would also add that too much height variation can actually be annoying, since being attacked from lots and lots of different hights all at once can be annoying to say at least. Not to mention that it can also make the maps look weird/odd sometimes.

Thoughts?

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Doom's gameplay is somewhat designed around the expectation of some height variation (right down to the fact that the Caco Demon can fly). Take that away and there is a gap in Doom's game play.

Conversely, Wolf3D, Blake Stone etc's gameplay are designed around the lack of height variation...

Conversely, Quake's gameplay is designed around a higher level of height variation than Doom...

etc etc

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Hmm. I don't automatically dislike all maps without height variation but if I find a map I don't like, I might use the lack of it to explain why. Height variation isn't mandatory but it really really helps.

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Vermil said:

Doom's gameplay is somewhat designed around the expectation of some height variation (right down to the fact that the Caco Demon can fly). Take that away and there is a gap in Doom's game play.

Conversely, Wolf3D, Blake Stone etc's gameplay are designed around the lack of height variation...

Conversely, Quake's gameplay is designed around a higher level of height variation than Doom...

etc etc


Yea I know, but the point I was making is the not every level needs lots of it in order to be good.

Take Hunted from Final Doom for example. It doesn't have much height variation but its still good because the concept behind the level is.

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imo 9 times out of 10 height variation is important in maps. The reason behind this isnt just because it makes a map more interesting but also it makes the environment look more realistic and more 3d.

It also adds to the gameplay of the map too. Having pinkies on the floor and imps on a platform and cacodemons that fly up a cliff and appear from behind a wall a few seconds after a fight starts is alot more interesting to most people than having a flat floor with pinkies in front than imps behind them and cacodemons just hovering above.

Now alot of height variation when it comes to monster placement can also keep monster infighting down which can be both good and bad. I think when it comes to infighting its more of the mappers personal taste and its not always mandatory.

Overall height variation is good to have but like everything using too much can also be a bad thing.

I personally like height variation because it makes maps more interesting, atleast for me anyways.

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Like Memfis said, if I play a flat map and it's fun than everything's alright, but if I play a flat map and it's boring, I'll probably blame the lack of height variation. E2 and E3 kind of pull off the flat thing, but I don't think any of us could argue that they were better for it. Conversely, some of the Doom 2 maps border on frustrating in the vanilla engine precisely because no thought was put into extreme height variance when it comes to movement and attacks.

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A good topic.

Height variation is one of the biggest driving emphasis in my maps. It affects several things:

1. Level Progression - It makes the player feel like they ascended a mountain, or descend into the pits of hell. It lends to the epic feel of a level.

2. Movement Tempo - In combat as well as running around the map, the gradient of the floor is a factor in dictating the rhythmic movement of the player.

3. Aesthetics - 'nuff said.

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It is not height variation in and of itself that makes or breaks a map. It is the overall architectural design and sense of space that is most important. Of course, Height variation is a key part of this.

But I think that if an area is interesting enough, you can get away with little or no height variation. But if a map is bland, the lack of height variation only adds to the blandness.

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As said before, height variation is a two edged sword. It can create a feeling of immerse, epic scaled environments, but on the other hand they are sometimes frustrating to play (especially the closer you go to vanilla standards).


I'd say there are more important things in levels than height variation. For example making the difficulty "just right" is one.


The funny thing I noticed about height variations is that they only work well if they are visible from different locations. A good example is E1M7 (which is probably the best Doom1 map), where there are quite a few areas where you can look into other areas with height variation between them.

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Why do you post these topics here in Wads and Mods? They belong to Doom Editing

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For me, proper use of height variation can be the determining factor of whether a map plays well or not. It affects the gameplay and aesthetics in a massive way, and can be use to create unique and intricate scenarios that are otherwise unavailable. The one obvious thing is snipers, but there's also naturalistic landscapes, intricate layout design, etc.

This idea that a map doesn't 'need' height variation to be good is interesting. Someone brought up PL11 - The Hunted. The more I think about it, the more I realize that this is the only flat map I've ever enjoyed. It's high-concept and at the time, was a very unique and twisted idea. Ever since then, people have taken that concept and one-upped it in wads like Vanguard and Plutonia 2, and I think height variation was one key to that. Arch-viles on a distant ledge create for a different fight than arch-viles in a flat maze.

In that way, height variation unlocks the potential of Doom engine in a way that most other aspects of it do not. Even with atmosphere, height variation can create immersive environments that would just feel bland otherwise. It can be used to create a grandiose castle or a deep, jagged canyon. Avoiding redundancy is suddenly plausible.

On a smaller scale, there's other visual aspects that are involved as well. The use of color and light are the obvious examples there.

So yeah... it affects everything. Any mapper who neglects it is missing out a ton of opportunity, and unless it's someone who is massively talented, any flat map can be improved on in some way by changing things up.

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For vanilla DOOM, just moderate and interesting use of height variation is enough. With some ports that allow mouselook and precise control over the aim (not autoaim), it's acceptable to have bigger height differences. But that can cause a lot of problems in vanilla maps. For example, you have to jump down into a hole (it's the only way to go) but some monsters block & hurt you everytime you try. Also, chaingunners up high on ledges that keep hurting you, but the autoaim doesn't want to lock onto them.

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hardcore_gamer said:

Yea I know, but the point I was making is the not every level needs lots of it in order to be good.


Who are you responding to? I don't recall anyone saying stuff like that. I think you're inverting the common consensus that height variation is good.

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