ALL THAT MAT­TERS IS THE USER EX­PE­RI­ENCE.

PCPOWERPLAY - - THE PCPP TECH HANDBOOK -

Get ready for the tough love. Ready? Here it is: No one cares about all the hard work you put in, or how damn long it took you to do this or that, or how that prob­lem was a real chal­lenge to over­come and how pleased you are with the re­sults. When you re­lease your game, or put any­thing out into the world, it will be stand­ing on its own. You won’t be there to ex­plain or de­scribe it, and like a baby bird leaving the nest it’s ei­ther go­ing to fly or.. well this para­graph has been de­press­ing enough, so I might avoid fin­ish­ing that thought. While the laws of physics de­ter­mine the baby bird’s suc­cess, it is the ex­pe­ri­ence of the user and the en­ter­tain­ment or value they de­rive that de­ter­mines your game’s suc­cess.

Don’t let any of that get you down. My views on this have changed a lot, and if I read the above state­ment when I was younger, I’d prob­a­bly have rolled my eyes. That doesn’t sound fun. I wanted to make games for me. If some­one else played it and didn’t “get it”, they were wrong.

But ul­ti­mately de­sign is about solv­ing prob­lems, and it’s a far more in­ter­est­ing prob­lem, and a far more valu­able skill to be prac­tic­ing, to be de­sign­ing for others. In the case of my Doom map, the prob­lem I want to solve is how to de­liver an en­ter­tain­ing ex­pe­ri­ence that makes the best use of the en­gine and as­sets. I get to de­cide the prob­lem, I get to de­cide the so­lu­tions to ex­plore, but I don’t get to de­cide whether it’s suc­cess­ful - that’s up to the user.

Now, of course it’s fine (and fun) to make things for your­self. My ad­vice in this case, broaden your fram­ing. There are seven bil­lion peo­ple on the planet. Even if you’re one in a mil­lion, then there’s still seven thou­sand of you!

Rather than think about mak­ing “a game that you want to play”, spend a bit of time think­ing about how you can gen­er­alise that state­ment. What type of games do you like? Maybe it’s a par­tic­u­lar genre? Maybe it’s a type of game­play - maybe you don’t care if it’s Cup­head, or Dark Souls, or Flappy Birds - you just want to be pun­ished? Awe­some! Now in­stead of mak­ing “a game for my­self”, you’re now mak­ing “a game for fans of pun­ish­ing game­play”. Even that small shift in think­ing will help you make de­sign de­ci­sions, make it eas­ier to com­mu­ni­cate your game to others, and make you more com­fort­able seek­ing and re­spond­ing to feed­back.

SO WHERE DOES THAT LEAVE US?

I wanted to an­swer the ques­tion of whether de­sign skills are re­lated, and how far they can be gen­er­alised. The way I’d find out was whether or not I could make a com­pelling Doom map. If you’ve been fol­low­ing along you’ll know that it isn’t up to me to an­swer that! Per­son­ally, I think my Doom level is great, I think it’s com­ing to­gether beau­ti­fully and I’m re­ally en­joy­ing mak­ing, and play­ing it. But it doesn’t mat­ter what I think, it mat­ters what you, the player thinks.

Re­gard­less of the out­come, it has been a won­der­ful ex­pe­ri­ence re­turn­ing to Doom after these years with a new mind­set and a new per­spec­tive. I’m ap­pre­ci­at­ing and un­der­stand­ing the game in new ways.

I’m con­vinced that Doom is time­less. I’ve come to see it as an in­die game - after all it was made by a small group of friends, and by to­day’s stan­dards it’s sim­ple and a lit­tle quaint. As far as player in­ter­ac­tion goes, you can walk, run, shoot, and push but­tons. There’s no jump­ing, there’s no tak­ing cover, there isn’t even look­ing up or down.

And this be­came the real rev­e­la­tion for me. Any­one can pick up and un­der­stand Doom. I’ve leant into that and have scaf­folded the ex­pe­ri­ence so that some­one new to Doom (or even first-per­son shoot­ers) is able to build con­fi­dence and com­pe­tency (and then get torn apart by demons). The level opens with non-threat­en­ing

en­e­mies po­si­tioned in view of the player, giv­ing play­ers ex­pe­ri­ence shoot­ing, then the op­por­tu­nity to come to terms with move­ment. As the player leaves this safe area they are met with an arena bat­tle, pro­vid­ing the op­por­tu­nity to both prac­tice, and demon­strate com­pe­tency in their newly ac­quired skills.

The en­emy AI also lends it­self re­ally well to in­ci­den­tal game­play - where be­ing qui­eter or louder or faster or slower through an en­counter may im­pact how it plays out, and how future en­coun­ters may play out. This im­pact is subtle, and takes the form of en­e­mies of­ten not be­ing where you ex­pect them; it’s an ab­so­lute joy that even hav­ing de­signed the level, I’m able to be sur­prised by it.

I’ve at­tempted to max­imise these mo­ments by adding more paths, of­fer­ing new ways for the player to ap­proach prob­lems, and more op­por­tu­ni­ties for demons to get the slip on you. This in turn gave me con­fi­dence to add some tough bat­tles and real spikes in dif­fi­culty, as a player who hits a chal­leng­ing area is able to ap­proach it dif­fer­ently, re­turn later with more fire­power, or cir­cum­vent it en­tirely.

Over­all the game feels like a real sur­vival ex­pe­ri­ence. You don’t beat the level as much as you sur­vive and es­cape it. It plays sim­i­lar to a rogue-like as you ex­per­i­ment with dif­fer­ent meth­ods of carv­ing your way through the level, with the en­emy AI mak­ing sure that even your favourite path is never pre­dictable. It’s a clichéd com­par­i­son but with mul­ti­ple boss fights, and your sur­vival re­liant on un­der­stand­ing and seek­ing out spe­cific weapons and items, it gives off real Dark Souls vibes. I’m start­ing to see what I’m cre­at­ing as a love let­ter to Doom. In at­tempt­ing to re­main true to the game, work within its con­straints, em­ploy a par­tic­u­lar set of skills, and in­ject two decades of shift­ing game de­sign zeit­geist - I feel like I’ve cre­ated some­thing new, that plays the way Doom feels in my nostal­gia rid­dled mind. Bru­tal, pun­ish­ing, dis­ori­en­tat­ing, and at times truly scary. But please don’t take my word for it - after all I’m just one player, and a guy who spends his time or­gan­is­ing teams and cre­at­ing ed­u­ca­tional games. I in­vite you to down­load and play the work in progress - find it on twit­ter @dl­lDooM - and let me know what you think.

The start­ing area eases play­ers in with non-threat­en­ing en­e­mies

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