My First Experience at Doom Mapping

January 6, 2022

Talk about starting the year strong! Mapping for a 1993 game! 

Doom is a game I've been playing on and off for almost 25 years. I used to play the shareware version on an old AMD K6-2 350 mhz as a kid. At some point, a friend gave me a copy of Doom95.exe and I got my hands on Final Doom. What an update! It was now possible to select levels without having to start a new game and resort to cheats!  Nowadays, I have all the official WADs and played them many, many times. 

Doom had something special that no other game had. It still kind of feels that way today, in 2022. Its environments and gameplay are pretty convincing, while still being abstract enough to age well. 

This blog article (part 1 of 3, actually) convinced me to give Doom mapping a try. 

I remember reading it last year and the idea stayed with me for a while. 

Keep in mind that the last time I mapped for a game was probably in 2001 or 2002, for Starcraft: Brood War. I made 4 player F4A map I'd play on with friends over a modem connection. It was fun for a while, but according to today's standard, it was crap. 

So I went ahead and downloaded Ultimate Doom Builder

Then I had to study what the map formats are. I'm no expert, so don't quote me here. These are the very (extremely) basic details of what the primary formats are, from my understanding. 

I'm a Doom veteran, but certainly not a master. And I'm a total noob at mapping. 

GZDoom: Doom2 (UDMF)
The UDMF format is the most modern and advanced format, that contains all possible features imaginable that go way beyond the original game engine. It runs only on GZDOOM. It allows scripting, 3D floors, slopes, swimmable water, etc. It can get quite technical. 

UDMF doesn't run on the old, original game engine. 

Boom: Doom or Boom: Doom2 is pretty much vanilla, but with some tweaks. It removes the hard-coded limits of the original game engine, such as the lost soul limit, the number of independent ceilings, and such. It's kind of a "Vanilla Doom+" thing, that keeps the original feel while removing limits and bugs. 

Boom format won't run either on the old original engine. It will run on every other port though. Chocolate Doom, Cryspy Doom, PrBoom+, etc. 

 As a reference, John Romero made Sigil in this format. A ton of well-known WADs are made that way. 

The Doom: Doom or Doom: Doom2 formats are the original, classic format, as Id Software created and used it back in the day. With all its limits. 

This format will run on the original game engine, as well as all the ports available. 

So, since my objective was to get my feet wet, not win a Cacoward, I went with the Doom: Doom format. Classic Doom 1 here I come! 

Creative process
Okay, what do I want to create, here? I figured I wanted to create some sort of small facility, with nukage and a spill. Thought it would be interesting to explore. I wanted a big main room that would be the center hub, sort of. From there, you'd see the red key sitting in an adjacent room. Guess you'll have to find a way to get there! 

Here's a couple of screenshots: 
It's pretty basic, but it does the job. 

Overall, a switch lowers down the nukage so that you can access the left part of the map. There, you'll find a couple of narrow pathways, a few secrets, then an elevator leading to the red key. 
Down the rabbit hole
Up to now, I had to put about 15 hours into the map. Now that I write that down, that seems a lot! 

Don't be fooled though, that's normal on your first try. 

The way Doom is made, it's incredibly easy to create a map quickly. The 2D nature of the engine makes mapping super fast. Once you're in control of the tools at your disposal, it becomes ridiculously easy to create rooms, corridors, contraptions in an instant. I honestly never imagined it could be that easy to create something, out of nothing. 

I had much less trouble with the rest of the map, as I felt more in control, working with sectors, linedefs, and vertices. It went well. 

At some point, I took a little break and came back after a few days. I felt inspired and created the whole second half of the level in about an hour. Fast and easy! 

I went ahead and created an outdoor area full of zombies and barrels, ready to blow up. Then the level gets back inside the base. I decided to go nuts for the finale and get the player down several flights of stairs until they reach a big room, in which hell manifested. The rift between reality and hell was fun to build. 
Creating those rooms and using textures you've seen for the past 25 years feels odd at first. What am I building? Is it good enough? Does it look okay according to my eyes? And according to the visual language of the game? 

It really feels like you're creating something. Ultimate Doom Builder is a great tool for a great game engine. But man, that's a lot of work. 

All in all, about 20 to 25 hours or so went into this. It was incredibly fun. Yes, creating maps for Doom is a form of art. 

I didn't even balance the map much, there's no difference between the difficulty levels, I kinda just dumped items and guns here and there, etc. It's not entirely done so to speak. But it's totally functional. 

I'm pretty sure a serious mapper could have done a similar map in about 1 hour tops. That's fine. Saying that makes me realize how much time it'd take me to create a world-class map. A ton of time! Sure, I'd get better and faster over time, but that's still a massive time sink we're talking about here. 

Here's a copy of my WAD. You run it using doom.wad and your favorite port. 

Full map view: 
I didn't post it on DoomWorld or any WAD hosting sites. I didn't create it in order to share it or anything. And I certainly don't want other people to give it a 0 stars rating and leave comments saying it's absolute shit. Which it probably is... But I had a great time making it, that's the point! 

All in all, it was a great creative experience I'd love to repeat, but doubt I will. It's too time-consuming for my taste. What probably doesn't help me, is that I'm a perfectionist. I need to fine-tune every small detail a hundred times before I'm comfortable with it. 

See ya! 

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