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Enemy placement/floorcode (ED. BY JACK) strategies
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IanFranken
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 27, 2004 4:22 am
   Subject: Enemy placement/floorcode (ED. BY JACK) strategies
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Well, since Jack hasn't made any new threads here yet and I don't want to see this project die off, I thought I might start up a new thread so everyone can post some of their opinions and mod making strategies or just start up a new discussion on level design in general. I read that Poet was working on a new guide to submit, and BJ Rowan was also working on compiling some thoughts, so feel free to post anything you guys might have written up here, so we can give it a look over and start up some new topics! :)
(Unless, of course, everyone is just PM'ing and writing Jack directly...I have no idea what all you guys might have discussed that we don't know about yet, so this post might be a bit silly...)

Anyways, I'm working out some of my own thoughts and feelings about level design, so maybe I'll have something to contribute here after a while...I'm a long ways from even starting to write yet, so I don't want to sound like I'm trying to rush anybody here...

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PostPosted: Sun Jun 27, 2004 1:06 pm
   Subject: Re: Level design strategies
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One area I'm interested in is use of the different types of guards and floor codes. Some addons use only normal guards (or mostly normal guards) and a different floor code for each room with the result that the player soon knows what to expect. I've seen other addons where all the floor codes are the same so that most of the action is at the start and then fizzles out.

By making the most of normal, moving and deaf guards and varying the number of adjacent rooms with the same floor code, the guard action can be made a lot less predictable.

There is a small section on this in the Warren Buss hints and tips file but a far more detailed guide with examples is needed. I'd be happy to contribute something in this area.

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PostPosted: Sun Jun 27, 2004 2:50 pm
   Subject: Re: Level design strategies
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Oh, I'm here. No one has pmed me about anything specific in the project, so you don't have to worry about that. I just haven't been on the ball lately, so I need to get started soon.

As far as level design strategies go, I'll paste that clip from the guide that I wrote awhile back (which would belong somewhere in the first part of the guide:

Quote:
Now that you've played a bit of Wolf, it's time to think back to any specific areas that you liked or were memorable. Once you have them in your mind, open wolf (or SOD or an add-on you like) in a map editor, and try to find which level the area was in and try to locate where it is on the map. Also make sure you are familiar with the map symbols and what they coorespond to in the game. Once you're familarized with the area, study it. See where the player enters/exits, where the guards are place, and where items or decorative sprites are placed. I'll use the first few rooms in Episode 3 level 8, my favorite Wolf level, as an example:

The level starts with a single small rectangular room that is closed off, a sign ahead of you, but no doors in sight. When you played through this level the first time, you were probably puzzled for a few seconds and circled the room a few times before you realize that tile in front of you is a secret door. As you press the tile, a huge room with 4 hallways that extend each direction and then turn out of your field of vision is revealed. If you look on this room on the map, it appears to be a swastika. Not only is it appropriate to have a huge hallway after that secret door that gives the player a sense of anxiety of what may lurk beyond, but it's appropriate to have a nazi symbol in the level before Hitler. If you also look at the where the enemies are, they're all placed at the tips of the swastika. This means you can't see the guards when you first enter the area, but they come running at you from all four directions once you fire your gun. So, your emotions (as a player) probably went from confusion to anxiety very quickly the first time playing the level. This is good. You want to play with the player's emotions - just make the player has an "out" route (a reasonable way of getting out of the situation you put them in).

Also, remember the thing I said about enemy placement before? Not only does good enemy placement play a crucial part in setting an atmosphere in the level, but it can also make things more difficult without increasing the numbers of enemies.

So, what is "good enemy placement"? There is no concrete definition. However, I think of it as a balance between realism and challenge to the player. Challenging placement puts enemies in locations you wouldn't expect, in order to suprise or confuse the player. Realistic placement lays down guards in the most reasonible places for guards in that situation to be placed. A combination of the two is good - you don't want to hide them all in corners, because that can be really frustrating. But if you placed every guard right in plain sight, the player will just mow them down each time he/she enters the room. Not only is that not fun, but it's downright irritating and monotonous. And as a designer, it is your duty to avoid monotony (except in certain situations when you can use it to emphasize something...but I'll get to that later). In the end, it's best just to place guards in the places that make the most sense to you. As I said before - a lot of times it's the most realistic route for a soldier to be headed, but other times you may want to sacrifice realism to put the player in some kind of trap. Use your discretion.


This part is sort of meant to be an overview showing the different ideas that go into just a few rooms - and then it briefly goes into enemy placement. It's not exactly the most focused passage, but I think it's pretty decent at saying what I meant it to say. So, any thoughts/comments?

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PostPosted: Sun Jun 27, 2004 5:59 pm
   Subject: Re: Level design strategies
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About the enemy position, you're right. In the first levels I think is good to don't place much enemies awaiting for the player. Many times the stories from the games says that BJ have sneaked
into the castle. In advanced levels the guards sometimes may still awaiting in huge formations
because they know that BJ is there. By this point will be nice if the enemies's placement have
some influence from the story. From what Brian have said about the floors, placing guards that
will come from other rooms or much time later from the beggining of the level or simple put them
walking by the levels is a relation of interaction from enemies. This will make an game better
than a game with only standing guards. The realism placement make an extra vision for the game:
in a desert a guard next of a water ot trees, a scientist next of his experiement, etc. In SOD
for example, ID have created an special ambient to Angel of Death by the using of objects, the
walls in the level, the music...all this features are necessary to make a very good map. Of
course, in Angel of Death's level is not a question about the enemy placement, but is a question the designed ambient with the enemy.
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 28, 2004 2:48 am
   Subject: Re: Level design strategies
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Some good thoughts / comments from all of you :)

Brian, indeed I would love to read everyone's opinions on floor codes and their strategies. I have my own opinions, myself, similiar to the original floor code layout of ID's original maps. Using one floorcode for an entire map can be fun at first, but as you stated the action fizzles out very quickly most of the time, unless you have a lot of corridors, siderooms and tunnels which help to slow the enemies down a little, and this can make for some interesting surprises when you turn a corner that was empty a few seconds ago and all of a sudden - BAM! - 12 SS troopers are marching towards you. Generally, however, I don't like this approach very much as it can be TOO unpredictable...Guards might sometimes open up locked doors that they're not supposed to, totally killing the fun of making the player find the key to the exit elevator, or guards might somehow find their way into secret areas and block off the entrance for the player, preventing them from getting 100% ratios, and so on.

Assigning different floor codes to each and every room has its ups and downsides. It's the most controlled enviroment, for one, so you can be pretty safe that nothing unexpected or weird will happen. The downside ? It's the most controlled enviroment, and you can be pretty sure that nothing unexpected or weird will happen! ;) It tends to make the levels way too monotonus, which is rarely a good thing...

The typical method of assigning floor codes is to use the best of the latter strategies...Assigning a single floor code to a large area of rooms and hallways so one shot will alert a couple of guards and make for some surprising, challenging results that are rarely the same when you play the level a second or third time. Yet, you still manage to maintain control over the entire level by assigning a few different floor codes to select halls / rooms. This is pretty much the method that BJ Rowan and the original Tom Hall / John Romero maps used for some of their finest work.

However, I think there are plenty of ways to mix up floor codes and deaf guards. Maybe, for example, you could assign Floor code 1 to the start of the level and to another room deeper in the level filled with SS troopers and Mutants, totally seperated from your start posistion at the moment. When you fire a shot while on Floor code 1, it would alert that distant room filled with enemies and they would start to slowly work their way through the level after you. If those enemies open a door to, say, Floor code 2 and they connect floor code 2 with floor code 1, and you're still on floor code 1 while you're blasting away, you might even alert more enemies to your posistion and they too might start to hunt you down. This method can make for some interesting, complex gaming at points that is similiar to assigning one big floor code to an entire level, yet still allows you, the designer, some control over how things will work out if you plan things properly. I'm pretty sure a method similar to this was outlined in the original Mapedit docs, but I don't think it's been used enough (or used properly).

As far as enemy placement goes, it is indeed a combination of realism and challenge. I do like to try and keep things, for the most part, realistic, if possible. One thing that kind of bugs me sometimes are the types of guards that are assigned to a level. I've seen a lot of levels that say "You are entering a dark, slimey, sewer system and it's really gloomy and depressing". Ok, fine...But if it is a dark, slimey sewer system filled with vines, rats and mold, then what on earth are high-ranking White Officers doing playing in the mud with all the little grunt SA soldiers ?! Please! Officers would never even socialize with security guards, and they sure as hell would not be caught dead in a sewer system without a damn good reason (Remember, they're wearing white, and it's nearly impossible to get any stains out! ;) ) If a boss is present in a sewer / tunnel system, then that's fine...As he would have all the firepower and bodyguards he could drag along with as possible. If it's a secret tunnel system out of or into a castle, that can be ok as well as perhaps some high ranking officers are making a getaway through an old escape route.

Now, I'm not trying to lay down any rules or anything...Hell, maybe you CAN figure out a good reason for having higher-ranking officers and an abundance of SS troopers in a lower region of the castle with all the filth and slime. I think, however, that proper placement of a handful of SA troopers, a couple of dogs and a few strategically placed SS troopers can be just as devasting when used right. You shouldn't need to have to put 149 mutants on a level to make it difficult to beat...When you're designing your levels, make sure to include niches for guards to hide in so they can jump the player from behind. Play with floorcodes and moving guards to dream up some tough traps. Make the player feel "safe" for a while until he / she starts to relax a little and then - WHAM! - pummel them a bit to shake them up :)

It's very interesting that a lot of Jack's theories and comments on level design are extremely similiar to mine and the way I think of level design most of the time. With such a technically limited world as Wolf3D, you have to resort to "suggesting" things subliminally a lot of the time to make the player feel kind of nervous and anxious. Proper use of symbolism plays a key part in achieving this... Using an image of Hitler, one of the world's most evil men of all time, side-by-side a locked door can make a player feel a little nervous before they unlock a new area..."What's inside there ? Is it a boss room ? Are there a lot of Hitler-fanatic officers waiting for me ? Maybe it's a trap ?", etc. Swastika shaped rooms and wall blocks are also good...The winding patterns of a swastika shape tends to make a player feel a little dizzy and overwhelmed sometimes, even if they don't understand why they feel so nervous. It is important not to overuse any major symbolism, however, as players may start to catch on to your strategy and your traps and ambushes might start to lose impact if you don't mix it up enough. It's best to use some symbolism at first to where the player might start to notice it a little, then switch things up a bit so they begin to get confused and surprised. At that point, I say start putting in guards and bosses in unexpected places that are typically regarded as "safe". Start the player off on a level with three white officers running towards them, for example, and hide the boss in a dead elevator so the player thinks he's finally found a way out of this mess...Until he opens the elevator door and is overcome with surprise from seeing a boss hiding in an elevator, trying to make an escape (or perhaps, just arriving on the level). These are some rough suggestions, but I'm sure you get the point(s).

I could go on and on, but this has turned into a huge post, so I'll wait until someone else posts something new so I can spew some more stuff out :)

'Till next time, keeds...
-Ian
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 28, 2004 11:37 am
   Subject: Re: Level design strategies
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I'm going to add more of my thoughts later, but right now I'm just going to edit the title to narrow this down to floorcode/enemy placement discussion. It'll just narrow the topics we need to cover in this thread - and after all, it's all we're talking about anyway!

Keep the ideas coming.

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 26, 2004 9:44 am
   Subject: Re: Enemy placement/floorcode (ED. BY JACK) strategies
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I think that dog usage is a good way to end a climactic battle because it tends to throw players off by making them waste ammo. While dogs are not much of a threat they are good at suprising players and they are hard to shoot at. The wise player would just switch to the knife and avoid using any ammo, but after a battle where they just had to use the chaingun, and they are ambushed by tons of dogs, they really don't have time to switch to the knife. This can be either cruel or challenging depends on how you look at it, but IMO dogs are underused.

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 27, 2004 5:43 am
   Subject: Re: Enemy placement/floorcode (ED. BY JACK) strategies
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Indeed, Ringman: Dogs can add a lot to the challenge, especially when used in conjunction with Officers. Officers are also extremely fast, and they can totally catch you off guard and make you start wasting ammo in your attempt to waste them. When dogs are thrown into the mix in this situation, you can totally get a player's adrenaline pumping as he/she frantically tries to back out of a room.

This sort of goes hand in hand with my previous comments about how you shouldn't need 149 Mutants on a single level to make it difficult. If you're doing everything right, a few guards can be a difficult challenge on their own, forcing the player to think about their next move.

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 09, 2004 1:40 pm
   Subject: Re: Enemy placement/floorcode (ED. BY JACK) strategies
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I figured this mapping forum needed some more, so I decided to post some more tips that might be useful. I know this has been used before, I'm not sure if its been mentioned already in this forum, I've been trying to read through all the messages to make sure it hasn't. Anyway, a good technique with floorcode usage and enemy placement is to make what I tend to call "wired doors." These are locked doors that lead to a room with enemies, but the key for the door is nowhere near that area. When the player walks by these he sees that he needs to get the keys for these rooms, so he goes through the level to find it. The key is guarded by some enemies and is rigged with a floor code that matches the same code used in the rooms behind the locked doors. This way he will shoot the guard and awake the other guards behind the locked doors. They will come out of the locked doors and repopulate the hallways so when the player goes back to those doors he will have a suprise waiting for him.

This breaks up the monotony of backtracking through a level and makes sure the player has something to do when he progresses through territory he has already seen.

This can also be a nasty trap for boss levels. The room the boss is in has the same floor code as these locked rooms, so the enemies will ambush the player from behind when he shoots at the boss. It would probably be a good idea to put health and other valuble items in these rooms so the player has a way to recover after the trap.

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PostPosted: Fri Dec 02, 2005 8:38 pm
   Subject: Re: Enemy placement/floorcode (ED. BY JACK) strategies
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Ringman wrote:
This can also be a nasty trap for boss levels. The room the boss is in has the same floor code as these locked rooms, so the enemies will ambush the player from behind when he shoots at the boss. It would probably be a good idea to put health and other valuble items in these rooms so the player has a way to recover after the trap.

You're actually kiling two birds with one stone if you do it right - There's usually the traditional motherload of ammo and health to help you fight the boss. Worked well with SOD's "Death Knight" level.
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