jebediahpariah said: Term, I'm an aspiring level designer. Any tips you can give me?
Well, keep in mind that I’m probably the worst person possible to talk about this, given I’ve made only a small handful of maps and none of them are especially interesting.
But that being said, here’s a few things that I’ve learned that other people might make use of:
1: Above all, flow is the most important thing that dictates whether a map is interesting or is boring—movement should be consistently going forward, and a player should always at least have a general idea of what should happen next.
Lord knows I’ve ranted to friends and acquaintances about how/why Scythe and Scythe 2 are my personal favorite mapsets of all time, and one of the biggest reasons why is because of their consistent forward flow. In almost all of the maps, you’re either in view of or within jogging distance of where you have to go next, but it’s always not 100% obvious—there’s still enough room to wander off the beaten path for a bit and explore about.
If the player starts getting stuck and has to wander around humping walls trying to figure out what switch activates what lift across the map for ten seconds, then something is wrong.
2: Areas where you engage in combat should be relatively free of clutter and without any cheap surprises. One of the biggest frustrations about the “Needs More Detail” movement that was super-popular in the late 00s (boy that feels weird to type) was the fact that the main movement area would have all sorts of little sinks, rocks, bumps, and etc that would stop the player’s movement.
If you’re not aware of the ground, there’s a high chance you’d strafe to dodge a Cyber rocket, get caught on an eight-unit-too-high little chair placed in the middle of the room, stop moving, and then eat explosive. This isn’t cool.
Likewise, I’m a pretty firm believer in the idea that a player’s death should always be his own fault, and not something he couldn’t help. So suddenly replacing a floor with lava, popping out chaingunners surrounding the player, archviles that you can’t see and there’s nowhere to hide, etc, are all moves that should be avoided. For every enemy, there should be some sort of available method to counter it. If there’s Archviles, there should be something to hide behind. If there’s Cyberdemons, there should be enough room to strafe around. If there’s Chaingunners, there should be enough distance so they don’t instantly shred the player at point blank. Etc.
3: I’m also a pretty firm believer that every room/corridor should have an explicit purpose. While it may not always be obvious from the get-go nor will it always be major, I think every area of a map should have a very specific thing to accomplish. Sometimes it’ll be to cement the atmosphere/aesthetic, sometimes it’ll be to introduce a new enemy, sometimes it’ll be to help players recover from a fight, sometimes it’ll be for a series of battles.
Take, say, E1M1. Practically every area about this map has a specific purpose dedicated to it. The very starting area looks pretty from the get-go and cements the techbase look. You take a left into the green armor cubby, and it introduces the Z-axis emphasis that made Doom so radically different from Wolfenstein—and it also introduces recovery/defense items so you can protect yourself. You go forward instead, and you get introduced to the enemies hovering over the body of another dead player…they’ll try to come for you instead! You go forward again, and you get a zig-zag room introducing the imps and nuclear waste. Forward a little more, and you see a discolored wall opening up and letting you know about secrets.
Pretty much every room in E1M1 has a very specific purpose behind it and is designed in order to demonstrate it. And I think especially good maps follow the same rule; maps that stay with the player break up the whole level into bitesize chunks where the player can point to each area and say “this is the X area”, be it the armor area or the radioactive waste area or the zombiemen area.
…Well. This is all just my opinion, mind. Either way, the biggest tip I can give you is probably the most important and yet the most simplistic:
4: Keep at it.