map direction and method

i instinctively map with a method i call ‘tumor mapping’. this really just means i plan nearly nothing ahead of time except for a vague direction i want to head in (ie: “this map is going to be cramped”, “this will be a slow moving but scary map”, etc).
i call it tumor mapping because my maps grow like tumors. you start off with one or two rooms to establish your theme and general feel and atmosphere. from there, you essentially pick random areas to ‘grow’ your map. you pick one corner and you extend it 768 units out. in this new area, pick another corner and extend that another 512 units out.
i can hear the professional level designers scoffing right now. ^_^;
a professional will tell you that you need to plan your map out in triplicate before putting down a single brush (or linedef, or whatever terminology your particular engine uses). they will tell you you need a solid plan of action in mind and you should stick to that plan as much as you can.
they are right. you would not believe the amount of times i map myself into a corner, with no room left to expand or a significant problem with gameplay that can’t be resolved with the current design. but i’ve also found my most creative maps were made this way.
in quake (or any true 3d engine), this isn’t always the end of the world. it has reared it’s ugly head a few times already in doom.

in quake, you always had the option to go up or down and pile passages and atriums on top of other passages and atriums.
doom is different from quake and engines that came after it because it’s not really 3d. the level geometry is bound by very restrictive rules, the most important of which is that one room cannot be on top of another.
this means, if my tumor map grows itself into a corner, my only course of action is to either create a teleporter (not a good solution as teleporters break up the flow of a map) or rework the entire area (this sucks because you are essentially throwing away the time you already spent on that area and it’s very annoying).
on the up side, moving around whole sections of map is much easier in doom than quake. thankfully, after a couple of close calls, i’ve been more careful about it and haven’t had to rearrange significant portions yet.

Sorry for the absolutely ridiculous image quality here…  i had to photoshop the hell out of it just to get it to be intelligible.  -_-

anyway, sometimes planning things out works too.  i can tell you it speeds things up by a lot.

on the left is nesp16, the geocompish map.  interestingly, that map turned out the most compact and efficient (with use of space) of anything i’ve made.  contrast to, say, ne_doom or nesp04 where i just winged it.

and then there’s the happy medium.  somewhat tumourish and somewhat planned.  i think ne_tower was probably the best example of it of maps i’ve released, but ne_lend was also a good example of that mix.  but more just because ne_lend was based off an existing map which was the ‘blueprint’.

i think spontaneity can play a very important role in the creativity of a map.  there’s something to be said for winging it sometimes.

at least in a hobby environment.  you’d probably be shot if you were on a commercial team.


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