the purpose of this guide is to help novice level designers understand the components that make up a good, playable, enjoyable level. it is to help them understand what it is i am looking for when i play their map. to help them undertand what criteria their creation will be judged upon should it be reviewed on my website. it is also for those who play the maps and are morbidly curious as to how i review my maps.
since what machine you play your games on has an affect on the gameplay, i'll include the stats for my box here:
Intel P4 3.2GHz, ASUS P4P800SE mobo w/ 865PE chipset, 1GB Corsair DDR400 RAM, GeForce 6800GT, SB Audigy 2
what do I look for in a DOOM3 level?
DOOM3 gameplay consists of four sub-categories.atmosphere
DOOM3 is all about atmosphere. i play the game the way id recommends in the manual: in the dark, no distractions, sound turned up loud. i believe that a lot of people who disliked the "retro" gameplay likely didn't follow these directions. the story in the orignal game combined with the creepy and scary atmosphere is what made it so good. trying to immerse yourself in the eerie, dark, slow-paced game that is DOOM3 just doesn't work when the real world intrudes on your senses. this is why movie theaters are dark, so you forget about the real world and focus on what is being presented to you. therefore, all levels will be judged by the atmosphere they create. shooting demons in a brightly lit room with disco lights and thumping music just isn't scary. shooting demons in a dark, mysterious locale with ominous ambient sounds and alien (or futuristic) architecture can be very unnerving.
action in DOOM3 is much different from previous FPS games. a battle with just one or two fast-moving enemies can create a lot of action in the right environment. in DOOM3, action isn't as big of a factor as it is in many other FPS games, but it is still important. i can imagine a level where there was no fighting and i still have fun. the first few levels of the original game are like that. but, if the game had ended there i would have been very disappointed. id game are action games. at some point i want to fight demons! so, don't be afraid to put sequences of no action into a level, but remember we all bought DOOM3 because we wanted a good challenging fight. which leads into the next category:
challenge is always a difficult gameplay element to implement properly. it is affected by layout, health and ammo and armor placement, enemy placement, and number of enemies. if the action in a level isn't challenging, it soon gets boring. conversely, if the challenge is too great, it leads to frustration. it is okay to design a fight sequence of such challenge that the player needs to replay it a few times in order to develop a strategy by which to overcome it. but, if a player reaches ten attempts at the same fight, and begins to feel like it isn't fair or they need to cheat, well, at that point it becomes frustrating.
gameplay flow is also very important. ideally, the action and challenge will slowly ramp-up throughout the level. areas of intense challenge and/or action are appreciated, even expected. but after a lot of intense gameplay, it is nice to be able to relax for a time, to soak up the atmosphere and enjoy the architecture on display. gameplay that starts off intensely challenging, then slowly gets easier and easier until the end is a let-down. a level needs a sense of progression. the player needs to start off with weaker weapons and enemies in order to appreciate the more powerful ones later on.
aesthetics is looks. fighting demons in square box after square box is boring and tedious. the player should feel that he is in a real environment, preferably one he cannot excperience in the real world. aesthetics are created by use of the following design techniques.
this is the big one for aethetics. the best example i can give would be the dig sites in the original game, or the excavation maps in the resurrection expansion. isn't it cool to walk slowly around admiring the alien constructs? a large part of the appeal of movies like star wars, chronicles of riddick, stargate, and aliens is the cool unearthly environments in which they take place. architecture can be art. good art will be appreciated!
in DOOM3, this is obviously of importance. one of the main features of the DOOM3 engine is it's ability to use relatively realistic light and shadow rendering. the player is given a flashlight, in large part to add to the atmosphere and realism of the game. though the flashlight has taken a lot of heat from some people, i think it is very cool to creep around in the dark, shining my meager light around searching for the path ahead. it provides the player with a choice: have a light source ready, or have a weapon at hand. too much light, and the atmosphere suffers, too little and it can become a nuisance. light should be used to create atmosphere.
textures are the wallpaper that decorates each surface we see in the game. textures should make the player know what they are looking at, and if possible, make it attractive as well.
this feature affects every aspect of a map. used properly, it can improve action, enhance immersive qualities, and set the stage for the architecture. a map with good layout gives one a feeling of moving from one realistic location to the next, and provides a sense of progress. variety is the key here. what fun is a level where all areas look alike? adding hallways, indoor and outdoor areas, elevators, crawl-spaces, and a variety of different styles of 'rooms' gives one a sense of being in a real place.
a good level will give the player items when they are needed. it's no fun have so much of any particular item that there's no need to worry about it. by rationing items, the map makes the player think, plan, and create strategy. i'm not going to be at full health and armor, and stocked full of ammo at all times in a map with good item placement, i'm saving ammo for the tougher enemies. too much of anything forces it to become unappreciated. it is a great feeling to get health when you're below 25. this is the feeling I like when playing an FPS map. the creative placement of items also can add to enjoyment. putting a choice weapon in an out-of-the-way area that requires some observant exploration is much more rewarding that finding it in the middle of the floor.
secret or hidden areas are an excellent treat which i in particular enjoy very much. it's a great feeling to know that clever detective work on the part of the player can reveal whole new sections of map. hard work and keen observation should have it's rewards. both DOOM3 and the resurrection expansion make good use of this. i love it when you can see an area of the map, but can't figure out how to get to it. then suddenly you come across a hidden crawl-space that takes you on a winding path through the innards of the level, and deposits you right in the area you were trying to enter.
3D Gamer's Edge will award the 3D Gamer's Edge Gold Award to any map that i feel offers an exceptional gameplay experience. a map that i would recommend unreservedly to anyone as being a high-quality product.
i always judge each map on it's own merits. i have an equal love for maps that stick to what works, and do it well, and those authors who add their own personal style and uniqueness to their maps. reviewing is a tricky business, and i'm sometimes surprised by a level that I like, and other times I play a level that seems like it should be great, but for some reason i just don't fall in love with it. each and every review is a matter of opinion. my goal is to provide what i feel to be an accurate, fair appraisal of each map. reviews are open to debate. feel free to mail me your opinions and i will consider each intelligent email i receive. should a letter point out things to me that i have missed, ratings may even change. the main focus of this site is to help people enjoy DOOM3 levels, and help authors gain exposure and receive constructive criticism.