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Map style progression: Early levels vs late levels
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Barry
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 13, 2016 11:16 am
   Subject: Map style progression: Early levels vs late levels
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With the release of Passage to Hollenteufel Phase 1, I have really learned a lot when it comes to how to handle level progression and the importance of early levels. This is especially true for longer mods with maps that cover a variety of different styles. This isn't as much of a worry for shorter mapsets or mapsets where the entire thing has one theme.

I have never been great on choosing a "first level" for a mod. I have usually mapped according to the storyline and not focused on important aspects early in the game such as hooking the player and pleasing the crowd before moving into more experimental stuff later in the mod. Sometimes what I want to do according to the storyline doesn't work the best for overall level progression and playability. In some instances, my opening levels worked well such as in the Road to Neuschwanstein. Other's, not so much. Bottom line is if you do potentially polarizing stuff early in the mod, it could turn players off towards playing through the entire thing, while if you do it later in the mod it is usually more forgivable because the player is already hooked and much greater difficulty is expected.

For instance, even if you like to design "labyrinth" levels, it's best not to start off that way unless the mod is specifically a labyrinth-themed mod. While some people love labyrinth-style levels, it's also a polarizing map style and you risk turning a significant portion of your audience away. Would anybody agree or disagree?

With this in mind, there are going to be some changes to how Passage to Hollenteufel Phase 2 is handled, which I will announce within the next week or two.

So what are your perspectives on level progression from early levels to the latter levels in your projects? Do you have a list of do's and don'ts?

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PostPosted: Sat Aug 13, 2016 12:43 pm
   Subject: Re: Map style progression: Early levels vs late levels
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I'd say the first rule I follow with the opening map of a mod is not to make it too big. The idea is to give the player an idea of what to expect with the rest of the mod. If the very first map is overwhelmingly big, it makes smaller maps that follow seem like a step backwards.

Beyond that, what's most appropriate for the map would depend on what features are in your mod and how you want them presented.
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 13, 2016 3:24 pm
   Subject: Map style progression: Early levels vs late levels
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I agree that the first levels should be crowd pleasers, although if all the levels are going to be large there is no need to really make a short Floor 1. Example E6 Wolf3D for instance. Also Gary's mods don't start with short levels and that doesn't let them down.

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PostPosted: Sat Aug 13, 2016 6:12 pm
   Subject: Re: Map style progression: Early levels vs late levels
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E6L1 is different because it's the sixth episode rather than the first one.
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 13, 2016 6:12 pm
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^^ I think making the first level short is more relative. It should not be as large, extensive, and difficult as the later levels and should be about giving a glimpse of what the mod will be like. I think it's important though to "hook" the player and save design choices that could be polarizing for later levels. I would also say its good to be a bit more generous with health and ammo in the beginning the later on.

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 15, 2016 3:30 am
   Subject: Re: Map style progression: Early levels vs late levels
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All depending on which type of mod you're making, level 1 either has to be shock and awe and fun or vast and demanding skill. If Spear Resurrection or End of Destiny's opening only took a minute to complete, e.g. excluded landmines, had you start with a pistol etc. would it still be as fun? All about taste I guess. Personally I like both styles but it depends on the mod itself. Spear level 1 is a good example of this, it's fairly easy all in all but still hold secrets and guards if you take the time to look for it. As with The Golden Episodes E1L1 it's always good to start on a relatively easy note before going in to full difficulty. This is the pattern I personally select when making levels.

Eventually you realize that the player is human too, and after a middle section that's pretty rough it's good to have some levels with more available ammo, health etc. Maybe tone down the aggression a little bit. The latter levels of Totengraeber, for example, weren't as tough as the middle levels, for example, and you always felt like you had achieved something when you reached those levels, closer to the end, progressing further, getting up there. It's carrot and stick all the way.

Of course, you can also start a mod with a ridiculously impenetrable level, and hopefully turn the player around to actually wanting to succeed further and perhaps make him or her a more skilled and concentrated player. Hopefully there are still people out there who think like that.
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 15, 2016 5:06 am
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^^I have done that a couple of times (Halloween edition of Eisenfaust Legacy & the first SoD Extreme, for instance), the first level instantly being a real challenge. Most of the time, people do not appreciate it. Laughing
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 21, 2016 10:49 pm
   Subject: Re: Map style progression: Early levels vs late levels
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Thomas wrote:
All depending on which type of mod you're making, level 1 either has to be shock and awe and fun or vast and demanding skill. If Spear Resurrection or End of Destiny's opening only took a minute to complete, e.g. excluded landmines, had you start with a pistol etc. would it still be as fun? All about taste I guess. Personally I like both styles but it depends on the mod itself. Spear level 1 is a good example of this, it's fairly easy all in all but still hold secrets and guards if you take the time to look for it. As with The Golden Episodes E1L1 it's always good to start on a relatively easy note before going in to full difficulty. This is the pattern I personally select when making levels.

Eventually you realize that the player is human too, and after a middle section that's pretty rough it's good to have some levels with more available ammo, health etc. Maybe tone down the aggression a little bit. The latter levels of Totengraeber, for example, weren't as tough as the middle levels, for example, and you always felt like you had achieved something when you reached those levels, closer to the end, progressing further, getting up there. It's carrot and stick all the way.

Of course, you can also start a mod with a ridiculously impenetrable level, and hopefully turn the player around to actually wanting to succeed further and perhaps make him or her a more skilled and concentrated player. Hopefully there are still people out there who think like that.


I have learned that balance is crucial. There should definitely be a sense of heightening difficulty as you progress through the maps. If you start off on Floor 1 with something extremely difficult, either the player is going to become annoyed and not play farther, or they will push through and the remainder may seem like a letdown in comparison to the start. On the flip side, in most cases you want to avoid starting out too easy and risk making a poor impression to more skilled players. I also agree that it's okay to back off slightly after a map or group of maps that are very difficult. In Passage to Hollenteufel, floors 24-26 are slightly easier than 22 and 23, before the heat ramps back up on 27.

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