A surreal hell level, in the theme of weird maps like 23 and 25.
Latest changes: lessened rocket ammo, did some visual tweaking.
Took your advice Xaser, the map plays the same but now the semi-final battle is less cheesable. Ending is still nasty though :)
I'll be honest: I wasn't too fond of this one at first, but the new versions have made me revise my opinion. Let me explain...
It's kinda hard to describe, really. I felt that the first version of this map was rather unremarkable, being very flat and linear. The crusher gimmick was a bit stale, and the maze-like nature of things felt forced and off-putting.
This new version, though, has really expanded things. The pipe-maze section offers a lot of exploration now, and the new-ish areas (especially some of the secrets) definitely add a lot to the map. In particular, the myriad of traps makes things really interesting, sorta like the whole map is out to kill you. The "gimmicky" crushers and strange styling suddenly work -for- the map, not against it, as it all radiates fumes of Petersen-ish devilishness. My verdict now? It's a keeper.
A few specific suggestions, though: there's probably too much rocket ammo, as at some point I had 60-something of them and was able to breeze through the final fight almost without trying. The first half of the map isn't very rocket-friendly, so by the time the player reaches the later portions, he's probably stockpiled a good supply already. The other trouble spot is that I was able to push the end-room arch-vile into the star, so you may want to put monster-blocking lines around the star sector itself to keep it from happening (since it cheeses the fight).
I do find the texturing weird in some spots, but for the most part I file it under "that's totally okay" except maybe for the unbordered GSTSATYRs surrounding that teleporter in the pipe area (the ones that lower to reveal chaingunners) and a secret-ish door I found somewhere with non-unpegged GSTONE for the door tracks. I'm sure it'll be a point of contention, though, since I seem to have a higher tolerance for garish texturing than most (id-like-ness or not :P ).
Weird how my opinion (which I'm glad now I never posted before) went from "meh, this is crap" to "oh wow, this is great" in a few simple revisions. I'm impressed. :P
You nailed it. The new section is awesome, it preserves the creepy feeling of the hall before it AND adds in crushers that carry the theme. A nice cheap kill, early enough that it's fair and obvious enough in hindsight that you smack your forehead when you get it. It captures the feel of adventure in the very best of the Petersen levels, like you're tunneling through some hellish tech cave. Then, just when you think you have the level's number it expands into larger and larger fights at the second half.
The way the secrets are positioned just underscores this. The BFG: LIKE A BOSS. The area around it gets my vote for best secret in the wad so far. Awesome job here!
The map could now easily be considered final, but if I have one criticism it's the end of the level. Unleashing the archvile later changed the dynamic of the fight to a running battle in the hall. I like this better, but it leaves the revs/imps on the left platform just diddling around out of sight, and the mancs were to slow on to put in the pressure. If there were a threat in the starting room, even just shifting the demons, it would be pressure to go forward and melee. If you do revise, consider a retexture - the ashwall/brown transitions seems a bit sudden, and not representative of the impressive end corridor. Perhaps a natural floor/wall with metal outcroppings, to emphasize the feel of no-mans land before the final hell-corridor, or concrete/pipe to echo earlier level themes?
Updated, massive changes and difficulty levels adjusted.
So I played the revamp, and the current AWOL second crusher made it play much smoother. A few more things stand out to me.
+ The area immediately after the first warp is a true winner, it has the potential to an Episode-3 quality 'hell' moment. The revenant was a real shock, in a good way - for some reason I think it didn't trigger last time even when I grabbed the health.
+ As last time, the Cyberdemon fight and the leadup is also gameplay gold, but I noticed a few things. Since there are one-time warps in all places, the cyberdemon gets a bit less surprising if you don't kill it quick. I'd make line 1217 repeat and add a counterpart above line 1138 that repeats, so the Cyberdemon is never too far away (just make the close a bit bigger). An extra teleport W1 on line 526 to sector 192 could be one last surprise on the return. The other thing was that the Megarmor secret has no indication but the lift sound. A slight vertical offset or something would help make it a bit more clear. You've notice the switch anyways, so a little hint can't hurt. In DB2, -3 voff was just enough to stand out.
+ I liked the execution with the little hidden nooks and crannies where the second crusher was. Seriously, the one you had with the medkits was great, a fun surprise exactly like a Petersen classic. You might just expand on that theme, with a couple parallel hallways with interconnections, nooks, and limited crushers. The second hall would come out behind the Cacodemon, who could be adjusted to face both approaches from its own alcove. The crushers on certain paths would force tension, a friend or foe sort of thing. I'm specifically picturing a darker, crusher section, but if you take that path there's a turn down the middle (connecting 2 halls) and also leading to a secret room in the dark, a respite from the crushers on both sides. Perhaps a very subtle clue from the Petersen playbook could mark dangerous hallways - an isolated texture or type of alignment, the ceiling, or one of his others. The added bonus of a more mazey feel is that the entry to the fourth crusher back rooms could be hidden better.
+ The first crusher is a bit to easy to abuse now, my fault here ;). It's fun though, it just lost the tension from before. Maybe the trick is a crusher with one side against the side wall (say left from where you enter), open on three sides, with the teleport close but not at the wall. Or maybe the original layout, but with the teleport to mid-left, with a little hall in front so you could lure monsters through the crusher at the risk of being pinned once they make it through.
+ I'm still thinking on the third crusher section - it forces caution, but not much else. Maybe gaps in the crushers, with better rewards behind them. Even sans secret, the 4th was more fun this time, the third one less. On the note of the fourth, what really bothers me is the utter lack of cover when the floor is a damage floor. A 32-square between halves of the middle might work, or maybe split the forward/back ones in half with different crush schedules (32 height difference or so).
Alternately, since the setup is fairly atmospheric even without them, what if you moved the crushers (and more trash mobs as archvile fodder) into the hall before, and make the archvile always trigger. You'd then have your choice of damage floors plus gauntlet or crushers plus barrels beforehand - just close the way to the entry room and start mashing. I feel like there needs to be some threat behind as well, since I noticed you can stand between the rear crusher and the bars if you're faint of heart.
These are all just ideas, but I was feeling creative tonight. A simple change could be swapping a few of the imps and one Caco for Sarges and maybe a chaingunner, changing the balance of the crusher reveal from doding in the space between to doing as much damage as possible while watching the crushers.
Well it seems I have my work cut out for me. The in-depth critique is highly appreciated.
There will likely be massive changes once I figure out the best way to go about this map.
I don't think this map quite fits, an opinion that's really the sum of a lot of little things. The style feels off, but it's subtle. What it really feels like is that your thing placement emulates McGee, with sparse handouts and kill-zone encounters, but the map itself is more of a blend of Petersen and Shawn Green.
Layout wise it definitely hits the Shawn feel that the original blood falls had, and I think that alone makes it a strong contender for the slot. Since we don't see a lot from him, I'm also comparing to his E4 work, where your secret placement in particular captures the feel. If you're looking to capitalize on that, remember that Shawn scattered crap ALL OVER the map. Just break up a few medbacks into health bonuses and set a few more of the monsters free and your set. Perhaps add a bit more height variation as well.
As far as monster placement goes, the map was very well done, with the Cyberdemon fight giving spicing things up and both Archviles placed for a fun setup. Beyond that, my favorite fight was the blue key room. The chaingunners after were a mean trick, but McGee in particular gave us plenty of those.
This brings us to the heart of the map: the crusher theme. The whole idea screams Petersen, and this in itself recommends it for the mod. But, like Barrels of Fun, it's anything but. For me they ruined the level. I'll break this down into more detail:
+The first crusher is a good intro to the level's theme, and is noticable with careful observation, thus fair. The big problem is that it doesn't add to the play. There's no use combat-wise unless you spend *way* too long with the hell knight (I tried), and since it's a required path, it doesn't invoke Risk vs. Reward like the Downtown cellgun (Map13).
+The second crusher is just plain boring. No tension, no pressure, no monsters to bait. Easily the worse one.
+The third crusher is the best gameplay wise, especially the combination of slow and fast crushers. My issues are that the hell knight at the end is a little too close to engage effectively, and the green/brown/red contrast burns the eyes.
+The fourth crusher doesn't give enough options. Since the switch past is in one of the monster cages, you can't find a path through. The space in front is misleading, like you can JUST squeeze past the last crusher, but you can't - otherwise it would be a valid shield. The space in between is fairly small, so doding between is also likely to get you clipped. This leaves only one good option: trigger it, run back, and take the boring task of sniping between crushes.
Other than the second crusher, I think all these could be salvaged with some remodeling. If, for example, the first one was at the center of the room, with a teleport between 4 wider crushers, you'd have the choice to run behind it and bait the enemies - risky due to the chaingunners, but potentially saving you significant ammo. Since the idea itself it very Petersenian, I'd also take a Petersen cue and make the last crusher skippable or easier with some clever planning or a secret. It would totally fit if there were a hidden telepor that let you get back access to the ambush spot, essentially clearing the ambush backwards as an exploration bonus.
If this is going for full-on Petersen feel, I'd also simplify some of the lighting and add more ammo in segments beyond the blue key to keep with his general design balancing. Here I often felt like I needed the secrets to have enough supplies to win, which was rare outside the later McGee maps.