a game on which you can learn / Habr

a game on which you can learn / Habr

Doom is my first game, which I had to play as a child, and every year I want to play it again. She contributed to the level design profession where I got to work. Doom still uses methods that make levels high-quality, interesting, many still remember. You can safely learn from the design of locations, which will allow you to better understand the principle of working on the gameplay chips of the levels in the future, to better convey the atmosphere and feelings that you want to convey to the player. Let’s look at the most frequently used and interesting techniques in the levels of this game.

Gameplay and navigation

What is needed so that the player does not get lost?

Good planning always allows the player not to get lost in locations. That is why the maze-like game maintains the smoothness of moving through the levels, which is part of the gameplay experience. For example, E1M2 was made so that the player went through the same location at least 2 times. This is necessary so that the problem can first be seen, ie. a door that requires a red key card (Fig. 1), indicating textures of the same color, and then the solution, i.e. the key itself, which can be found already in the next room (Fig. 2).

Door and keycard from E1M2

How to make a beautiful maze?

In labyrinths, you can always come across a dead end (Dead End), of which there can be many. The main condition is the player’s reward for the path taken, even if it is the wrong one. Labyrinths, as a rule, should be quite small, and the exit to the next location should be only one. The best solution would be to add a large or small obstacle in front of it, around which you can circle the passage of the player so that he can see the door exactly. This is how the labyrinth on E2M6 was built.

Labyrinth with E2M6

Another example of a small labyrinth can be given from E3M7. The difference from the previous one is a liquid (blood), which damages the player when moving it. The developer of the level specially placed control points (Control Points) where the player can take a breath. He will also be able to choose a protective suit that allows him to freely move through the blood without harm. There are several similar costumes, which allows the player to find all the secrets in the labyrinth or a way out of it.

Labyrinth with E3M7

The first level is a sandbox.

When people are asked about sandbox levels, everyone mentions Far Cry, Crysis, and many other younger projects, but no one mentions Doom (Figure 1). It is E3M6 that has become a level similarity where there are several points of interest that the player can visit and explore (Figure 2). According to the importance of interest, points differ in size and shape. Points where you can buy armor, weapons, ammunition, first aid kits are much smaller compared to the buildings where you can find key cards to exit the level.

E3M6 sandbox level

Narrow rooms for certain monsters.

In some levels, narrow corridors can be found, in which the player is closed with a certain type of enemies. These can only be melee monsters, as shooting enemies can kill a doomgai very easily and it won’t be as interesting. Monsters should constantly try to get close so that the player feels uncomfortable and tries to eliminate the enemy as soon as possible.

Narrow corridor with E3M1

Visibility of traps.

Level E2M6 is completely covered with a lot of traps. This was the idea of ​​the designers themselves. However, it is not enough to add a large number of rooms with enemies, some dangerous traps should be visible to the attentive player. The developers like to test the player for greed. So, on E2M6, in one of the rooms, you can see a large number of bonuses in the center (Fig. 1). This can stress a cautious player and prepare him for battle. After picking them up, rooms with enemies open around them (Fig. 2).

Trap on E2M6

An example of checking the attentiveness of the player.

At E2M6, at the beginning of the level, the player will discover an exit accessible only by using three keys. After a long passage of the level in the search for keys to the exit, you can find a similar exit (Fig. 1). To access it, you need a yellow key, which the player receives not far from this room. Activating the switch lowers the floor where a group of enemies await the player (Figure 2) and stairs leading back to the room before the fake exit. A fake exit will cause the player to remember a place where they previously saw a room with an exit from the level (Fig. 3), which resembles a fake.

False output on E2M6

Action is the result.

In the game, when interacting with any levers, the feedback method is used. The player, when using the switch, sees the result of the action in front of him. For example, in the image below, you can see that after using the levers, the floor rises, allowing you to go further.

Action is the result

Sometimes the feedback method is also used in secrets. For example, on E1M2, the player will be able to see a slightly different texture from the others (Fig. 1). In the next optional room, you can see a switch (Fig. 2), which will open a door with a secret location. In order for the player to notice it after leaving the location with the button, it is made brighter compared to other rooms and uses different textures for it (Fig. 3).

An example of a secret from E1M2

The player always goes in the direction of the road.

In the E3M1 level, there is an interesting place where the player can find a shotgun right on the road that appears to be a dead end. In order for the player to continue moving to this “dead end” wall, it is necessary to lower the floor while walking along it. This prompts the player to move in the direction of the “dead end” and he tries to go through it. In fact, instead of a real dead end, there is a texture that obscures the passage.

False dead end on E3M1

First, a weapon is provided, and then an enemy appears that requires its use.

All levels have been carefully balanced to be playable starting with the gun. Designers try to follow the rules that a powerful opponent needs a powerful weapon. Therefore, for example, zombies with shotguns do not appear in the level until the player receives a weapon of similar power.

Start room with E1M7

Level E2M9.

Another interesting experimental level is E2M9. The main idea of ​​this experiment is the limited amount of weapons and ammo, which forces the player to force the enemies to fight each other. This level gives the player a unique opportunity to master the ability to use enemies against each other in combat in order to waste less ammo on them.


Projecting secrets

Texture contrast.

To highlight the door to the secret area, you can use a texture that is different from the main texture used throughout the location. This creates contrast and draws the player’s attention.

Secrets of E1M2 and E1M1

Irritating subject.

A great way to introduce a secret to the player is to show a valuable item, but cover it with any obstacle so that he can squint and think about how to get it (Fig. 1), at the same time, a good addition to such secrets is to present information about how to get there (Fig. 2).

Secrets from E1M1, E1M7

Light and texture change.

Developers draw attention to secrets by changing the location of the texture so that it looks different from others (Fig. 1). You can attract attention with the help of a flashing light, which indicates the entrance to the secret area (Fig. 2).

Secrets from E1M1, E2M4


Doom has always been praised and will continue to be praised for its level design, as it is the benchmark for many shooters still being released. Most of the location creation techniques that John Romero came up with are no longer used because technology has advanced so much since then. Doom left its influential mark in the gaming industry and became a classic of its genre.

More interesting and useful content about game level design can be found here: https://vk.com/aboutleveldesign

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