Background first: Over the past few weeks, I've put some time into making a couple of maps for Doom 3. You may know that I made a good number of maps for Quake 3 CPMA. In the past, I've focussed on Team DM maps, though more recently I've branched into 1v1 and CTF mapping. When Doom 3 was released, like many Q3 mappers I was keen to have a go with the new technology. For practical reasons, tourney maps are a good size for early maps and remakes are ideal for learning the engine, so I chose to redo nodm11/cpm24 - phrantic.
In CPMA, phrantic is very tight and fast (hence the name) and is modelled on DM4-style "dead end" gameplay. For Doom3, I made some changes to the layout, extending the back SG area away from the central area, changing the structure of the dead end room and reducing the overall height of the map. These decisions were driven by performance considerations and the different falling damage. Items have innevitably shifted around too. You can take a look at the map for yourself (screenshots 1:2:3, download) which is sitting in beta until iD release the first patch. The pace of the map is naturally slower in Doom 3 than in CPMA, but the cat-and-mouse element with players able to predict and intercept each other or trap them in the dead end remains fairly true to the original.
Remake done, time to make something original. Never Outgunned (no prizes for guessing the origin of the title) is a map which employs similar gameplay concepts but with an original layout. Having learnt technical lessons, I think the overall look (and technical quality) of the map is 'better', though you can judge this for yourselves from the beta (screenshots 1:2:3, download). Again, the focus is on cat-and-mouse, on fast performance over detail, on well lit areas over shadow. There's 2 RL's, 2 Armours and a 60 second MegaHealth. There are 3 main and fairly open areas, plus some interconnecting corridors. There's a good few trick jumps which I know of, probably more that I don't. There's no doors, no breakable lights, no pitch black corners. And with that brings us to the point of this column...
Feedback I've had on both maps to date has fallen into 2 broad categories. The first is from people that have played the maps and enjoyed them. This is the kinda feedback I like :) and in fact is one of the main reasons I'm still mapping. I get a sense of satisfaction from creating something which others then go on to play and enjoy. The second category of feedback is "These are Quake maps, not Doom maps". I can see where this comes from: the maps are indeed quite different from the stock Doom 3 maps designed by Splash Damage. Let's expose some of those differences:
Light vs Dark
Lighting is obviously a core feature of Doom 3, so it was unsurprising that the stock maps make a feature of this. Light switches in rooms, breakable lights, shadowed hiding spots, an entire room that glows bright red, it's all there. Have you ever felt you were playing in a tech demo? ;) One aspect you might not be aware of is that lights are the key cause of performance problems in maps. The Doom 3 engine is very efficient in terms of handling sheer number of triangles, and also in cutting down what it has to draw to the absolute minumum. For this reason, sheer amount of detail is rarely the cause of FPS slowdown. Instead, the major issue is more often how many lights are hitting a given surface. Lighting a Doom 3 map can be a bitch, especially if you want to have it a) look cool/realistic and b) not leave dark spots. I think that the nature of the lighting in the Doom maps was heavily influenced by both performance and the need to showcase the new technology. In my maps, I've chosen the path of light. I've chosen to illuminate the playing field and for those lights to be constant (unbreakable). I've also chosen to light for performance rather than for "cool looks".
Door vs Entrance
Doors are a surprising re-addition to deathmatch maps in my mind. Conventional wisdom in Quake map design was that use of doors was generally bad for gameplay. When you approach a door, you don't know what might be waiting the other side and that forces caution on the player. Having too many slows the game down. But it's not just the presence of so many doors, but also that the implementation of doors in the stock Doom maps is very much "tight doorway in flat wall". In other words, the doors generally have a very tight visual portal through to the next area and there are ambush positions either side of this. As with lighting, this design decision was likely influenced by performance factors. Doom 3 uses "vis portals" and "portal scissoring" to determine what the player can and cannot see. This prevents the engine drawing more than it needs to and improves performance alot. The easiest way to implement this is room - tight door - bending corridor - tight door - room. If you design a room in this structure, you know that you can't see from one room to another, that if the doors are closed you can't see the corridor either. With more complex structures, it becomes harder for the engine to calculate visibility. In a single player map, it's very simple to design your layout with this in mind. For multiplayer though, room - door - corridor - door - room is rarely the best layout, but to keep a consistant theme (and re-use the assets) of the single player game, the multiplayer maps keep this trend. I've chosen layouts that prefer bevelled angles over right angles and open entrances over doors.
Single vs Double Resources
In most of the stock maps there is one rocket launcher and one armour. Controlling resources was a key feature of Quake games, and since armour remains a key factor in who wins or loses any given battle, and given the power of the rocket launcher, I don't see a reason for this to change. I'm not sure what the reasoning for reducing the average armour count on the map might be, so I'll just go to point out that by providing 2 armours and 2 RLs (despite the maps being small), I've made a concious decision to differ from the stock maps. Having a larger quantity of resources forces a player to work harder to achieve map lock, gives a down player a stronger chance to recover, draws players to more areas of the map in order to maintain control.
These are the three key differences that I see between the maps which I've made and the stock maps. Granted there are others: the stock maps have oodles more detail than mine and their visual quality has the polish you'd expect of professionally crafted maps; the stock maps have a ton of ambient sound, flashing GUIs, custom models; they have intestine effects on teleporters and so on. But it's these three points that I wanted to raise for discussion. I'd like to stress that, though I've been talking about my own maps, I'm really just using them to illustrate how the design of maps (stock and custom) is effecting gameplay, and how with custom maps, the gameplay of Doom 3 has the potential to develop in other directions. I'd also like to stress that I haven't said "my way is best". I have made these maps according to my existing principles and my experience from playing the Quakes and especially CPMA.
Right now, the mapping community is beginning to get started. There's a ton of mappers producing their first ever maps, but there are also alot of seasoned Quake engine (Q3/RTCW/etc) mappers that are further along the learning curve and will be producing good technical quality maps very soon. Historically the mapping community has done it's own thing regards gameplay and hasn't always seen eye-to-eye with the competitive community. Blame for that might be laid at the door of either camp: for competitive scene not getting involved with the mappers and not necessarily knowing what it wants; or with the mapping community living in isolation from the online competitive scene. Now would be a good time for the competitive community to decide what it wants and communicate that clearly... not something that's been done before.
So to the topic of this column, hopefully of this discussion: what do you want? I see a whole set of options, so many that they become shades of grey. At one extreme I expect we have the "Doom 3 Purist", who wants stock maps and nothing else. At the other end of the scale we have the "Quake Recreationist", who is already sick of the stock maps and wants ztn, pro-dm6, dm4 from q1 and so forth. What is your opinion? Where between these two extremes do you sit?
Update: Taking onboard some of the output of discussion, I've updated both the beta maps. Phrantic II is promoted to release candidate status and, on top of some visual enhancements and a reduction on health packs, now includes a smattering of barrels. Never Outgunned beta 3 also includes barrels and some 'damageable lights'. Unlike the regular shootable lights, these lights 'respawn' after 20 seconds. There are 3 on the top level near the RL/armour. The other significant change is move of the chaingun.
Edited by Swelt at 17:28 GMT, 5th Sep 2004 - 20354 Hits