Been working 14 hours straight on e1m3rq, “Necrophilia” yesterday. It’s been a while since I touched it, so it had a piercing stench all over it, and it was pitch-black and not very funny. 😉
There was much cutting of superfluous little things (including side areas), and simplifying the routing to get the player down to the challenge (moat bridges) as quickly as possible. All combat was removed from the first minute or so of the level, but increased later on, making Necrophilia the most combat heavy map in Episode 1 at just under 200 monsters, at least half of them zombies. Let the gibs fly.
I also enabled the coloured lighting. Eep – the fact that it was still black-and-white goes to show you how long this map rotted in a dark corner of RMQ’s SVN. I was pleasantly surprised how comparatively little time it took to polish it up – routine paying off? Anyway, it’s looking halfway decent now, about 85% done, and it’s very playable.
The moat area was just too dark; if you can’t see anything, gameplay suffers, and you’re giving away a perfectly good part of the level because people just won’t notice much about it, except that it was dark, they got lost and there were zombies. I guess that’s a lose-lose situation. So it’s usually better to have more light than less.
It’s not that easy to light such a spacious area in Quake, except with sunlight or minlight. I went for sunlight, which takes away some of the dank feel, but in the end it’s a game and must be playable, so I’ve got to compromise and I’ll err on the side of gameplay if necessary. So let there be light.
Quake is still a pretty dark game, and you can’t do a terrible lot about it. Part of it comes from the lightmaps – you can’t brighten a texture with light, you can only darken it with shadows. So there is just a finite brightness there – you don’t have a lot of headroom with your lighting. The textures themselves are also pretty dark, which further adds to the problem.
Your only option to introduce contrast is to make most of the map darker, in order to make the highlights stand out more. This is one of the reasons why Quake is best enjoyed in a darkened room (and on a TFT monitor, in my opinion).
The map includes three challenge rooms, where you do puzzles or similar things to reach switches at the end. I decided to let the player choose which one they want to open, albeit without knowing which is which. 😉
Apart from that, ijed says it’s pretty open and also pretty challenging which is probably a good description. There was mention of scary, as well, which isn’t something I intentionally went for, it’s more a result of the pacing I guess.