Friday, March 30, 2012

Development Log: DOOM Monthathon #9

I can't lie; I didn't work on much visually this week.  I added a couple of lights to the storage rooms and a couple of trees to the outdoor area, but beyond that nothing is new in terms of pretty pictures.

"A tree.  Fascinating, Captain."
I have been balancing the easy difficulty setting, however.  I'm making sure the rooms get progressively more difficult, although on easy they should never be tough, exactly.  Even someone who's never played before should be able to get through without dying.  It's much harder to judge the difficulty settings myself, of course, since I know the level too well.

Although this will be my last update in March, I will be doing at least one more dev log on this project, so I can post the final product itself for download and have a video to show.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Development Log: DOOM Monthathon #8

As far as building goes, I've finished the last two storage rooms (one of which was simply blocked off, because too many storage rooms were getting far too repetitive, and it was better for pacing that way), and now all that is left is enemy balancing and texturing.

Subconsciously similar to the maze in E1M2, oddly enough.
If you look at the picture above, you'll notice all the crates are beige and the floor is gray (the floor is actually made of crates as well).  So I need to break up the monotony by trying to make non-patterned beige-and-gray crates.  Unfortunately there are only two styles of beige (square and double-wide) and one of gray, so preventing the monotony will be a challenge.  Also, the ceiling needs lighting in the storage rooms.

As far as enemies go, there is a variety between difficulty settings.  The way I think of it, on the easiest setting I should be able to survive without even really thinking; on medium I should have to struggle hard to survive, maybe dying a couple of times, but still being able to kill 100%; and on hard you simply can't kill everything, and have to run past a lot, taking as little damage as possible.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Development Log: DOOM Monthathon #7

Enemies! Woot!
After a while, it gets hard to figure out what I've done since last update, because everything blends together.

The visual is useful after all!
So I've placed a majority of powerups and enemies around the level, including many for different difficulty modes.

Time for imp stomping.
Because it's a short level, I don't think I have the room to introduce too many enemies and powerups, but I think I have plenty of variety so far.

I also spent a lot of time on making the storage rooms have some variety, as well as some platforming challenges.

Easy platforming.
Moderate platforming.
Tough platforming.
I modified the lighting a little, so it's darker in the sewers and brighter outside, but I didn't change it too much overall.

So all I've got left is the two last storage rooms (and I know what I'll do for the big one), and then it's mostly texture refinement and balancing.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Development Log: DOOM Monthathon #6

I redid everything I had previously lost, plus some, bringing the level to alpha.

This shouldn't change much anymore.
I know many people have different definitions of 'alpha' so I'll clarify here by saying that alpha means you can get from the beginning to the end, even if there are no bad guys, obstacles, etc.  What needs to be there to complete the level is there and functional (keys, lifts, teleports, etc.).

So I spent much of the time finishing up the last area.

Oh yes, definitely inspiration from Curse of the Catacombs.
This area has the dual purpose of functioning as the final area and the 2nd area (of four), because the first time you visit it, you see it through the bars of the cages, and the second time you are outside.

So close yet so far.
I also changed the location of the red key in the room that changes shape based on what difficulty level you are on, to provide a little extra challenge.

Now that it's at alpha, my next tasks are to add enemies, items, fix textures, and set lighting.  I also need to add boxes to the storage rooms in the sewer.


Friday, March 16, 2012

Development Log: DOOM Monthathon #5 - BOOM

Here's a lesson that I have to relearn every single time I start a new project: SAVE ALL THE TIME.

Doom Builder 2 crashed on me, after hours of unsaved work.  When I reloaded it, everything was gone.  I had assumed that doing a test autosaves like other editors I've used (and I was constantly testing to make sure everything looked and worked right), but I was unfortunately completely wrong.  Of course.

This sets me back a bit.  I don't remember everything I've done, but it certainly included the much of the final area, and modifications to the red key area.

So I'll have to redo that and post it next time.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Development Log: DOOM Monthathon #4

I finished building the sewer section to alpha, and added a few details to make the section more interesting.

Tripled-sized closets, for all your sewer gardening needs!
There are now many more storage rooms, which I'll use as places for bonus items.

Looks silly now, but I'll think of something more creative later.
I've also added a couple of platforms and ladders that allow the player to climb out of the acid if they fall in.

Behold: the visual that really doesn't explain much.
After the sewers, I worked on the room that changes shape, which you can see in the map above, to the right.  There is a main circular corridor, and all the rest of the rooms are opened by flipping a switch.

You can see what was opened up by the outline on the ceiling, and the door tracks on the walls.
The inspiration for the room is partly from the room where the chainsaw is in E1M5 of the original DOOM, and partly a level from a game called Curse of the Catacombs/Catacomb Armageddon (the greatest game made with the Wolfenstein 3D Engine).

The part with the changing room is actually the third section, and so I'll work on the section between the sewer and that next, which is how you get the yellow key.

I may or may not leave the yellow key there.
I'm thinking of having the teleporter go from the stairwell to an outdoor area which will preview the final area.  The player will probably find himself in a cage like a zoo attraction, although I'm not sure yet, so I'll solidify the idea for the next update.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Development Log: DOOM Monthathon #3

So I've begun building the level.  Normally I would sketch the level on paper first, make a clean (readable) version in Inkscape or similar, and then start with the actual building of the level.

But I've decided to take a different approach.  This time I've decided to only put sketches of individual ideas down on paper, then get right in the editor.  I'm seeing if the drawn maps actually helps with clarity, or if it can be cut out of the process.  Also, since I'm only giving myself a month to do it, I have to get to it quickly.

So I began by working on the main stair room.  I decided the blocking of higher floors was not that necessary, and could be accomplished with locked doors.  Sometimes the more creative approach is just more convoluted.

Then I began worked backwards, creating the sewers, which takes up most of the map shown above.

As I create it, I've decided that teleports will be used sparingly, only to prevent the player from crisscrossing too much.

The player begins in room A.

More boxes in the storage closet to come.
The player finds that the door that's between room A and C (circled) is blocked, so the player must hug the wall and take the long route around to room C, and then emerge on the other wall across from room A.  The player can then reach room B, where the blue key is.

All art placeholder, I promise.
There will also be a teleport in room B to hop back to room C so the player doesn't have to backtrack all the way around Robin Hood's barn.

Next update, I expect that the sewer section should be alpha complete, and I'll start on the next section.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Development Log: DOOM Monthathon #2

First, here is the example of blocking progress up the stairs that I mentioned in my last dev log:

I think this works out decently.  I may also find more interesting ways to represent the block, but in any case, it works well enough.  I might also have it simply so that there is no keys, and a switch deep inside the spoke takes care of it, although I think perhaps the satisfaction might be greater if you can watch the stair completing itself.

Anyway, on to new stuff!

Even harder to read than last time! Yay!
I've never been that fond of teleports.  I always thought that, unless they were very simple A->B and B->A, they were more of a frustration than anything else.

Yet, some DOOM levels utilize teleports in greats ways, and Half-Life did a half-decent job, too.

So I decided to push my brain a bit and delve into teleports to see what kinds of interesting things I could do with them.

Certainly, teleports + enemy placement can lead to some very interesting firefights, but in terms of pure navigation, what can a teleport do that a lift or a door can't?

Teleports: Acting like bridges since 1993.
So I've come up with a few ways that I could integrate teleports in a way that takes advantage of their uses.  While I think teleports are ultimately still rather gimmicky, I think I'm going to put a few in my level to spice things up a bit.

I think using teleports as a tease or preview of what's to come can be one effective use.  Also, to get to hard-to-reach items, or even a vantage point to target enemies.

And now that I have a couple of different themes and ideas that are workable, I'll move on to turning these disparate parts into a cohesive level.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Development Log: DOOM Monthathon #1

EDIT: The game is complete.  Download the level HERE (requires .7z extractor and copy of DOOM) to play it before reading everything, so you can play the level without spoilers.  Then read these dev logs to see the process.

Carrying on:

I've come up with a short list of possible themes for my DOOM level.

Chickenscratch, ahoy!
One of the things that has always stuck in my mind for some reason is the idea of making a lift like an elevator -- it can drop you off on many different floors.

So if an elevator is used as a central hub for the level, I could create at least four floors that each could have their own sub theme.

However, testing this idea in the editor was underwhelming.  Sure, it works, but it's not nearly as interesting an idea as anticipated.  It will serve as a hub if necessary.

Visually interesting it is not.  Maybe if I could look up.
But I decided to try a second hub style to see if there was a better way.  So next I tried a circular stair, making a tower or lighthouse-styled hub.

One of the reasons I first made a lift, then a staircase, as the hub is because I want the level to have a sense of verticality.  I remember once on a DOOM mod website, someone said that his biggest complaint with mods is that people rarely use height -- most DOOM mods are pretty flat.

This is kind of a problem because of DOOM's limitations.  You have to be extremely clever to make floors on top of floors, because in general you cannot overlap rooms from a top view, making the height axis a little tough to utilize.  DOOM is not much of a 3D engine in that regard.

I've taken that height advice to heart in all of my FPS level designs, even if they don't have the limitations DOOM has.  I like to give my levels a sense that you are either climbing high or low, such as scaling a mountain or spelunking.

Because the mountain wasn't there, I created it.
Anyway, I think the staircase style is more visually interesting, but traversing it is tedious.  I was considering having the level progress so that the player starts on floor 2, goes down to 1, up to 4, and down to 3 to exit.  However, with a staircase-style, the backtracking and overlap would be annoying.  I can still do that on the lift, but the lift has lost its appeal.

What I may do instead is have the player go up the stairs in a linear fashion, from bottom to top, but block the player's progress up the stairs until they have completed their current floor.  This gives the feeling of upward progress, as well as feeling like they are achieving something in each section, without backtracking.

An awful lot of climbing to do more than once.
After the hub, I experimented with two other themes for sections.

I considered making an area where the player must use radiation suits strategically, where one wrong move can injure them by having the suit run out before they make it to the end of an acid river.

However, each suit lasts about a minute, and that is far, far too long for this kind of test.  Having the suits last for 30 seconds, or 15, would be much better.  I also tried to make a straight line to see how far I could get before the suit ran out, and it was 32768 units (of course!).  The problem with that, however, is that a corridor 32768 units long glitches up the walls.

Heck, even the left side wall is screwed up!
I think that is out.

Next I tried to make a room which would begin small and get larger.  As the player moves through the room, the room goes dark, then the layout changes, and the room lights up again.  I would hope that this would disorient the player, but I think it didn't work as well visually as I had hoped.

It might work better if I change the doors to lifts that stay down, or have a combination, or create a maze that changes its configuration drastically once the player has reached one end (a key).

I like the idea, and haven't given up hope on it yet, but I think it's only the first one that is really cool that I've tested.

I'll try to come up with and test out a couple more ideas before making any commitments.  After the next log, whatever I have I'll stick to, and start building the level in earnest.