Level Design Masterpieces 2: Barrels O’ Fun



The Doom series was created by ID Software and it is widely considered one of the first games in the FPS genre. ID Software created the first Doom game in 1993 and Doom 2 was released in 1994. Doom 1 and 2 were extremely popular and for years most FPS games followed the game play model of Doom. In Doom the player is a marine on a military base on Mars, the base gets attacked by demons and the player must journey to hell to stop the demons. The player explores levels finding keys to open new areas and fighting monsters. Combat is fast paced and brutal, the player can carry all 8 weapons at once and no weapons need to be reloaded. The enemies either launch projectiles at the player or rush at the player to melee them.  Doom is also characterized by having lots of secrets hidden in the levels.

Walk through:

Barrels O’ Fun is the 23rd mission in Doom 2, this is later in the game and the player will have mastered a lot of Doom’s mechanics. While most levels in the game are about hunting down keys and fighting huge swarms of the undead this level requires the player to rethink their play style. The level is littered with explosive barrels that can easily kill the player or enemies, and many areas have so many barrels that when one explodes it sets off a chain reaction and the entire room ends up exploding.

At the start of the level the player is in a long room filled with barrels but suspiciously free of daemons. Once the player starts moving a wall opens to reveal a Mancubus and a shotgun. When the Mancubus fires at the player it will start a chain reaction of explosions from the barrels which will kill both him and the player.


Move or be destroyed!

The player must run across the room and reach a teleporter to be brought to the next area however, the barrels are set up in such a way that the players movement is impeded. As you can see in the gif below the player is guided to the end of the room by a burning barrel that does not explode.


Run towards the light!

Once the player reaches the teleporter and enters the next area their situation doesn’t improve much. The player finds themselves behind two hell knights and looking down a long hallway. Just like the first room the player must run to the other end before the attacking enemies start a chain reaction of explosions. As the player runs down the corridor they discover that there are several chaingun zombies. When the player reaches the end of the corridor there is another teleporter. This room is easier then the first room since the player has a more direct route, and smart players will backtrack to pick up the dropped chainguns as well as the level map once all the monsters are dead from the explosions.


Clearing a room the easy way

The next area changes things up a little bit, the player is teleported to a narrow corridor that still has explosive barrels but they are not set up in a way that if one explodes it won’t start a chain reaction. At the end of the corridor is a button guarded by a Pain elemental, a flying enemy that spits out lost souls (another enemy). If the player does not deal with the Pain elemental they can easy be overrun by lost souls. The area this encounter takes place in is really what makes it so interesting. The long narrow hallway makes it harder for the player to move and dodge, this makes the lost souls fast movement and charging attacks harder to avoid, and the barrels scattered in the area ensure the player can’t spray and pray. The last interesting thing about this area is the wall on the right side of the corridor rises to reveal that your above the starting room.


I accidentally fell off the platform at the end

Once the player hits the button at the end of the corridor they must backtrack to the starting area and ride a platform up to a corridor that is similar to the one with the Pain elemental. This hallway is designed like a cross-section of a staircase and has as line of explosive barrels at the “top”. The player only has to kill a few Demons and Imps while working their way to the end of the corridor, this acts as a respite from the combat (or at least the Doom equivalent of a respite). When the player reaches the end of the corridor they enter a much more open area with a few alcoves full of enemies. The player is on a platform surrounded by lava so they can’t directly reach the enemies however, there is a rocket launcher on the center of the platform.


Taking out the Chain gun zombie is always top priority 

Once the player deals with the enemies in the alcoves and picks up the rocket launcher they have a choice, there are two teleporters in the lava below the player. I am going to explain the right side teleporter path first ( but they can be done in either order). When the player exits the teleporter they end up in a circular room with two hallways that lead into each other forming a U shape. While walking around the hallways the player will see an alcove with a few imps and a bunch of rocket launcher ammo. There is also a secret hidden in the wall as you can see from the gif below.


The are more rockets in the alcove I didn’t pick up

When the player enters one of the tunnels it triggers the release of a few Spider Masterminds (one of the most deadly enemy types) and opens a room with a yellow key and a teleporter. This teleporter sends the player to the same place as the teleporter on the left does in the previous area. After fighting a Revenant the player will discover a BFG 9000 and a few Demons, once the enemies have been dealt with the player will enter another teleporter and be brought to an inside area.


When ever I pick up the BFG my face mirrors the Doom guy’s face

This final area will be reminiscent of the beginning of the level, the player is in a room full of explosive barrels. There is a chain gun zombie behind the player and once it starts shooting all the barrels in the room will start exploding. The player must run to the other end and get through the door before the explosions finish them off. Once the players are in the next room there is a teleporter that loops back to the big open area of the map. The other door in the room requires a yellow key. Once that door is open there are only a few barrels that the player has to blow up that are blocking the exit for the stage.


The mad dash to the end of the level


Barrels O’ Fun is one of the most memorable levels in Doom 2 and it was created by Richard Gray aka Levelord. Grey worked on many very popular 90’s shooters such as Duke Nukem 3D, Sin, Blood, and Quake. The reason this level works so well is that Grey understands the pillars of Dooms gameplay and uses this map to make the player rethink the way they have been playing the game thus far. The pillars of gameplay for Doom are: fast movement and massive firepower, this level takes both of these pillars and turns them upside down. The player still needs to be constantly moving like in other Doom levels but the abundance of explosive barrels forces the player to take a little more care in their movements. This level also forces the player to be more careful when shooting which on paper my seem like sacrilege to hardcore Doom fans but I feel its one of the reasons this level is so fun. One last interesting aspect of this level that really shows why Grey is such a great designer is how its created to challenge speed runners as well as regular players. There was (and still is) a large community of speed runners playing older shooters like this, there was even a par time for each level set by ID. As mentioned above there is a point where the player has to jump off an edge and they end up back in the starting room. There is no guarantee that the Mancubus will shoot and set off all the barrels the first time the player is in the room (If the player is trying to do a speed run and they immediately start sprinting away from the Mancubus as soon as the level starts there is a good chance it won’t notice them). This creates a hard decision for the speed runner do they set the barrels off? (this will cost valuable time) or do they ignore it and just dodge the Mancubus and barrels a second time? (quicker but much more dangerous). This kind of thinking really shows that Grey understood the Doom community and wanted to challenge every part of it.

I hope you enjoyed my look into Barrels O’ Fun, thanks for taking the time to read this. If you think I missed anything or want to agree or disagree let me know what you think in the comment section.

Designing Weapons

When designing a shooter game creating fun and interesting weapons is one of the most important parts of the design process.  The weapons are going to be used by the player for the entire play experience so they better be compelling and fun to use. When designing weapons there are a lot of details that need to be considered for example: how many weapons the player can hold at once, if the weapons have alternate fire modes, what kind of ammo does the weapon use, and how much damage it does.

Less is not always More:

There are a lot of things to take into consideration when deciding how many weapons the player can carry at once. There are advantages and disadvantages to each method and its important to pick the one that supports you game better. Many modern shooters (such as Halo, Call of Duty, Destiny, and Gears of War) limit the player to only a few weapons, this allows for a more realistic feel since in real life a person can only hold so many weapons. The limited weapon method also allows for more resource and choice driven game play, the player only has a few weapons so when they start to run low on ammo then they are forced to search for more or get rid of the weapon. The limited number of weapons also creates player choice since the player can’t hold the entire arsenal they have to make choices about what weapons they want to hold. The player may need certain weapons to get past certain areas so they are forced to drop a weapon they are holding. On the other side of the coin is letting the player hold the entire arsenal, this method was used a lot in older shooters (such as Doom, Half-life, and Quake). The advantages of allowing the player access to the entire arsenal is that it allows them the freedom to approach each combat situation the way they want to. The big draw back of this method is that it becomes very important to balance each weapon so nothing is too overpowered. Each of these methods can improve the experience of a shooter if its used in the right way.

Fire Modes:

When designing weapons one way to make the weapon more interesting is to give it multiple fire modes. This allows a weapon to have more versatility in combat. There are many games that have weapons with alternate fire modes such as: Bulletstorm, Unreal Tournament, and Painkiller. Different fire modes create the opportunity to make a weapon more memorable, or help compensate for the weapons short comings. In the game Unreal Tournament there is a weapon that shoots a fast beam projectile but the alternate fire shoots a slow moving ball, if the ball is shot by the primary fire the projectiles explode for extra area damage. The alternate fire does not need to be a different projectile, in the game Perfect Dark Zero there is a weapon that has an alt fire that turns it into a turret. Weapons with multiple fire modes give the player more options of how to deal with enemies and in a shooter the more ways the player has to deal with the enemies the longer they stay interested.

Weapon Design In KorKu:

The weapons in KorKu were designed around the level and the enemies. We wanted a long range weapon so I created a laser that had a slow rate of fire but had long range and high damage. The laser was the most popular weapon in testing due to its accuracy and damage. The other weapon the pilot has is the shotgun, this weapon has a high rate of fire but lower damage. This weapon was harder to aim but the spread allowed player to shoot multiple enemies at the same time. The second player had one weapon which was a heavy weapon on the shoulder. This weapon did the most damage but the projectile moved slow so the player had to lead their targets.  We designed this weapon to he harder to use but very satisfying when it was mastered. The cannon could kill any enemy in one shot but hitting that enemy was another story, this created a challenge for the second player to master in order to succeed in combat.