Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

What We Can Learn From Doom

Posted by Rampant Coyote on February 11, 2016

Relatively short, sweet, and good for making you think – what gameplay lessons can we learn from Doom:

Now I don’t know about the magic number 7 (and after all, Doom 2 increased the bad guy count anyway), but I think this guy nails the basics of it.

I remember a criticism of an early D&D 3.0 compatible 3rd party monster book… that too many monsters were just “claw / claw / bite” – in other words, conventional attacks, with very little interesting about them from a stats and gameplay perspective. Why bother? That’s just a bigger / tougher / harder-hitting straight-up fight that gets pretty old by level 2. Sure, occasionally, it’s fun to just deal with a vanilla enemy (gameplay-wise), when it is uncommon enough to constitute variety.

Later books by the same editors took this criticism to heart, and the bulk of the creatures possessed interesting abilities which, if they were able to get them into play, forced players to adapt their strategies. Mixing and matching enemies of complimentary abilities can be a little difficult if you are trying to maintain some semblance of feasibility to your world … a problem Doom didn’t have. And the behaviors and attributes weren’t always simple. But ultimately, it was the same idea… an orthogonal differentiation of enemies.

The other factor that Doom capitalized on – and Doom 2 did an even better job – was combining this with level design to¬† make combats even more interesting and requiring the player to adapt even more. It’s one thing to walk into a giant room full of bad guys and try to intelligently circle-strafe, but it’s something else entirely if the terrain puts the enemies behind cover or surrounded by moats of nuclear waste or something along those lines which require the player to change things up even more.

Another important point not to be lost here: I think a lot of this happened *because* Doom was, fundamentally, so simple and straightforward. It required the designers to shuffle things around a lot and to invent clever ways of making the level design, monster design, and interactive elements of the level all work together to create challenges that were greater than the sum of the parts.

Anyway – worth checking out!


Filed Under: Design - Comments: 2 Comments to Read

  • Cuthalion said,

    This is something I was recently discussing with the other lead on my tactical RPG. I was pushing for more mix-and-match ability/spell design to make it easily moddable, while he was planning for the abilities to all be quite different so that there wouldn’t be much benefit to having a system where you use an external file to define which sets of effects with what parameters (a la Morrowind’s spell crafting) an ability has. The effects weren’t really going to be reused much.

    In the end, he won the argument: we’ll program abilities individually, which gives us a more orthogonal differentiation of enemies and faster development time in exchange for less flexibility. At least for now.

    It’s also an issue I’m having with monster design in my tabletop RPG, but that’s more easily solved, since explaining unique abilities to humans is usually easier than computers. And the main issue right now is that my current campaign’s players have a couple of min-maxers, plus some starting bonuses as rewards from the world-building session that make their effective level higher than their apparent one. So really, I need to field enemies that survive long enough to do something interesting!

  • Cuthalion said,

    I should have said, “a more orthogonal differentiation of abilities”, but obviously it applies to enemies to (as in your post).