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Tips for Creating/Editing Wolf3D Floor Designs


Tips for Creating/Editing Wolf3D Floor Designs

The following information must not be considered a definitive work

on this subject, but should help most people avoid some of the

pitfalls associated with translating their floor design ideas into

a working, error free floor.

This short manual does not explain the workings of any particular

editing program used to transfer your design to the computer.

Mapedit Version 7.0 (c) 1992 as Version 4.1, by Bill Kirby as

modified by David Huntoon, Bryan Baker, and Matt Gruson, was the

tool of choice for this writer.

The information was gleaned from many hours spent playing and

editing the custom floors. Some designers may have lacked this

knowledge or their editing program wasn't full-featured and the

results may have been disappointing to them. But it didn't effect

the quality of their floor layouts, only the action.

Floor Codes

Design problems seem to center around a misunderstanding of the

relationship of floor "codes", doors (locked and unlocked variety),

and hidden doors. First, an explanation of the use of floor codes.

There are a number of unique "codes" to use when mapping out a

floor. These codes are used to isolate areas of the overall floor

from one another such that enemy guards can be made to engage in a

fight or not, depending on how you assign floor codes. One of the

more common problems is failing to assign floor codes in all floor

space, or assigning them haphazardly. The results of either

practise are unpredictable, but some of the effects are:

- Certain sound effects may be missing.

- Hidden doors won't always open all the way.

- Stationary guards become living statues and won't fight.

(This includes Super Guards - or Bosses, but these guys have an


- Moving guards won't fight either and will mo 12112c218m ve in place or in

crazy ways.

Unless your floor design has a very large number of rooms, there

are usually sufficient unique floor codes to assign each room its

own code, although this isn't really necessary. In general there

are 3 approaches to assigning floor codes, according to what you

want to accomplish.

1) Assign a single floor code to all floor space. Unless you take

other measures, this will have the singular effect of alerting

every guard on the floor as soon as the first shot is fired. This

can lead to some interesting fire-fights, but it isn't always the

most desired approach because the action usually (not always) ends

quickly (either they're all dead or the player is) and he's left to

wander through a bunch of empty rooms that offer no further

challenges (or restart the level).

2) Assign a unique code to each individual room. In this scenario

guards in the next room are unaware of any carnage in the current

room - unless something causes the door between the rooms to open.

3) Assign unique codes to contiguous or non-contiguous groups of

rooms. This offers a microcosm of approach number 1) above, but is

more controlled and often the most interesting and suspenseful


Special Floor Code and Enemy Guard Eyesight

There is one floor code that has a different effect from all the

rest. This is floor code '6a', or the code which designates a guard

as being "deaf" or "steadfast". Such a designation means 2 things:

the guard will not react to other guards shouting or shots being

fired in the area until and unless he sees the player, then he

responds just like any other guard. But his eyesight is much better

than other guards as he can see in every direction (that isn't

blocked by something) including one square behind. These guys can

even see between the cracks of wall cubes that are joined only at

the corners. (It's kind of eerie to hear a guard sound off that

can't be seen anywhere). By contrast, guards on all other floor

codes can only see straight ahead but will be alerted regardless of

their impaired vision when other guards on the same floor code are


Changing Floor Codes

Another common error in floor design is to change floor codes when

going from one area to another but not separating the 2 areas with

a door. Doors are used as "switches". When the player moves from an

area of one floor code to another with a different floor code,

without having to open a door, the guards in the moved-into area

will not be "armed", i.e., they appear to be in a trance, until

fired at. This may be an interesting effect to create for

approaching a Super Guard, but as soon as the first shot is fired,

the player better move out of the way fast, because the "statue"

just came to life and he doesn't like having his sleep interrupted.

Hidden Doors and Rooms

Hidden door design is critical. In case you don't remember, the

official version of Wolf3D places no guards in a room entered

through a hidden door. This is because a hidden door, unlike a

regular door, is not used as a "switch" to arm any guards on the

other side. But the problem is a bit more complicated than that.

If guards in a hidden room are somehow set in motion, they can

block the movement of the sliding door. This condition is

detectable by the sound of 2 notes for each push of the space key,

as opposed to the normal sound of trying to open a door that

doesn't exist. (These 2 notes also sound if you try to push a

hidden door from the wrong direction).

The guard(s) can be made to move away from the door and it will

open, particularly when the player moves far enough away and can

get back in a hurry before the guard does. But often, when the door

does move, it only moves part way. As you will soon see, there is

a way to get a hidden door to move more than once. (Personally, I

wish the Wolf3D engine had been designed to cause a sliding door to

crush anything on the other side, with appropriate sound effects of

course. This would be more like real life).

The first rule of thumb when dealing with guards in secret rooms is

to be sure the secret room has the same floor code as the room from

which it is entered. In addition, the room outside the secret room

must have a normal door (locked or unlocked).

To resolve the problem of guards getting in the way of a sliding

hidden door, choose one of the following three methods.

One way is to design the hidden door entrance so the door slides

side-to-side. Such a design will also permit the door to slide

forward, which an unsuspecting player may try to do first. This

approach has the advantage of not having to be concerned about

guards moving about in the secret room. Its main disadvantage is

that if it is used too often, players will start to recognize the

existence of this type of hidden door configuration unless you add

many such configurations that don't have hidden doors and the one

door then is disguised by being only one among a crowd.

Another way is to use multiple hidden door object codes such that

a sliding wall will move into another hidden object code and can

thus be moved again, in any direction you choose. The hidden door

object code can exist in open space as well as in a wall. This

opens up all sorts of possibilities. However, there's one drawback.

Extra hidden door object codes, which are often not used, prevent

the player from getting the bonus for finding all secret areas.

The other way to use guards effectively in a hidden room, and you

want the sliding door to move inwards only, is to make sure the

guards are standing on a "steadfast" floor code so they won't be

moving around the room.

If you want more rooms beyond the hidden room, and you want them to

have normal doors, then the floor codes of these additional rooms

must either be different from the hidden room (and not be used

elsewhere on the floor), or the guards in these added rooms must be

made "steadfast" if you want to use the same floor code as the

hidden room.

One more word about hidden doors. There appears to be a problem in

version 1.4 of Wolf3D in that sometimes a door will move 3 squares

and the next time, only 2 squares, even when there's unrestricted

space in which to move. What this means is: to avoid intermittent

problems, use one of the methods described above to circumvent it.

Moving vs. Stationary Guards

All guards except the Super Bosses can be made to move in a

predetermined direction. This device is quite useful in creating

unpredictable action upon entering a room with one or more moving

guards. Since a room is never entered at exactly the same instant

each time the floor is played, the guards will be in a different

position and may or may not see the player right away.

In addition, guards can be made to move through doors to adjoining

rooms with or without the same floor codes. This is always

interesting. While you are busy teaching manners to the guys in one

room, in walks an oaf from another, which sets off alarms in the

next room or rooms with a different floor code as they will hear

the fighting and become concerned. Lesson #1: Always try to keep

your back away from all doors (including the one you entered!). By

the way, Guard Dogs are always on the move - there are no

stationary dogs. (I guess Id didn't want to design a graphic of a

dog sitting and panting for water or food - ever notice how many

rooms dogs are in that have no food or water in them? - It's a

wonder the animal rights activists haven't been on their case <g>).

It's generally a waste of time to place moving guards in a room and

not lay out a path for them to follow, although there is a trick or

two that you can use with a moving guard who has no assigned path.

(Tricks are discussed, but not explained, in this section). Also,

unless you assign the "deaf" guard floor code to an entire room, it

doesn't do any good to put a moving guard on the deaf guard code.

The Effect of and on Activated Guards Moving About the Floor

Activated guards will mostly move to the point where the player is

currently located. Their progress in locating him can be slowed and

often stopped by complicated room patterns, by putting solid

objects (barrels, etc.) in their way that they have to move around,

or by sheer distance.

Some activated guards have a tendency to move away from an

immediate threat by going into other rooms and waiting at a door in

ambush or simply refusing to come out, waiting instead for the

player to come in. All this means is if a large body of

"overheated" guards is encountered, one way to counter their threat

is for the player to move off in some other direction. This will

often cause them to begin to scatter, but may make it easier for

them to be engaged in ones and twos later on. Of course the main

disadvantage to this tactic is it is not known where they'll be

when next seen, unless they're in a bounded area. Always good for

a laugh though!

The other thing about guards moving from room to room while

searching is that they will often open a door into an unrelated

floor code and if a shot is fired at the time the door is open,

even more guards can become involved in the search. Heh, heh! I

love finding dogs in rooms where they shouldn't be. Took me a while

to figure out how they learned to open doors.

Effect on Play of Guard Choices vs. Design Decisions

While sitting at your computer testing a floor design, you

may not always recognize what the effect of your choice of guard

types will have on game play when viewed against your design


As you already know, the tan guards move slowly and react the same

way. The blue SS guards are a bit quicker and more deadly (takes

3 or more shots to bring them down, depending on distance between

player and guard).

The white uniformed "officers" move much more rapidly, will swerve

to make a player miss and are more intelligent acting. Finally, the

mutants are the greatest threat of all (except for the Super

guards). The mutants move silently and shoot more quickly than all

other guards.

The effect on design of using officers and mutants is important

because of how quickly these latter guards can react.

When your floor design is played, the player must be given a way to

defend himself, especially from officers and mutants, or be

provided a way to attack without being totally overwhelmed. A niche

in a wall, a narrow room with no cover, or no way to back off, is

inadequate in those cases where the player will have to defend

against a host of attackers. Conversely, a medium to large room

with enemies everywhere, no cover afforded, and with nowhere

else to go, should also be avoided.

The most critical example is designing an opening sequence which

has the player standing in a room 1 or 2 squares deep and 1 square

wide with the a door immediately in front. As soon as the door is

opened, and a shot is fired which alerts numerous guards, the

player will be overwhelmed. Particularly if the guards are

officers or mutants and a better defensive position cannot be taken

by moving out into a larger area.

The problem is exascerbated by how doors are programmed to open. As

far as the program is concerned, the door is considered open the

instant someone (the player or a guard) signals it to open. The

program does not wait for the door to physically move far enough so

actor and player are visible to each other. The mutant guard

shoots so fast that the player won't even see the door start to

move before the mutant's shot arrives to kill or maim. There's no

defense except to try and kill a guard in the doorway so the door

will stay open. But if nothing but officers and mutants arrive

first, there is little hope of doing this. Besides, guards don't

usually try to enter the room before shooting unless the player is

out of sight.

Review your designs carefully and take this information into

consideration. The game is played to be ultimately won by the player,

not by the game's designers.


I don't know if most people notice it, but all elevators in the

official game are oriented east/west. No elevators are entered from

the south or north. This is to ensure that when an elevator is

entered, the control will always be directly in front of the

player. (When you're hurrying, you don't want to have to stop and

look for the switch!) Entering from the north or south will provide

two controls on the left and right as the player enters - one of

these can be safely eliminated in your designs.

Also, if you place an elevator control in a wall with a single

thickness, the control will be available for use on both sides!

You need to put something on the outside to prevent use of the

outside control if you don't want it used, or else put a second

thickness of wall behind the elevator.

Finally, when you create an elevator to go to the Secret floor,

don't forget to use the floor code inside the elevator that

signifies you want the player to go to the secret floor when the

switch is thrown.

Secret Floors

Two things about secret floors: 1) you don't have to have one in an

episode and 2) if you do have one, you need to place the elevator

to the secret floor on designated floors in each episode if you

want to come back to the correct floor.

If you decide not to have a secret floor, when tahe ninth floor is

exited (the so-called "boss" floor) the player will find out it was

really the secret floor, which only means the 10th floor becomes

the "boss" floor. So you need to lay out your floors accordingly.

It is possible to place an elevator to the secret floor on every

floor in an episode. However, if you did this for episode one, each

time, upon return from the secret floor, the player would be back

on floor #2 (which would get a bit tiresome after a while).

Elevators to secret floors for all episodes should be placed on the

following floors within episodes 1 to 6, respectively: Floors 1, 1,

7, 3, 5, and 3. This way the normal progression of floors will work


Inaccessibility of Objects and Acquiring Bonus Points

There are, obviously, 2 approaches to playing Wolf3D. One approach

is for the player to get through a floor quickly enough to beat the

Par time so as to get some bonus points. Such an approach

automatically ignores the need to kill all guards, find all hidden

doors, and get all the treasure. These last three items constitute

the other approach, i.e., taking time to kill everyone, open all

doors and get all the treasure, which also earns bonus points.

(Once in a great while, a player might be able to do both!)

If you design a floor that makes it impossible to award bonuses for

using the latter approach, then you have chosen to award only those

who use the former approach of getting in and out as quickly as

possible. How do you do this? By making treasure, guards and hidden

doors inaccessible. One other way is to use the Pacman ghost on any

level except the secret floor. The "ghost" is considered to be a

guard, but is invincible. No matter what guards are used on the

secret floor, the player will be awarded 15,000 bonus points just

for getting there and out. There is nothing wrong with denying

bonus points in chosen situations. This is just to make you aware

when designing a floor what the effects of your choice will be.


The official version of Wolf3D employs no "tricks" to fool you.

However, if you design and edit enough floors, you'll soon learn

about the "tricks of the trade". Guards can be made to walk through

walls (which the player can then walk through). Objects can be made

transparent, and so forth. Although Wolf3D purists will probably

argue the point, I personally think a trick or two adds a new, and

interesting element to the game as long as it's done sparingly.

It's probably fair to warn the potential user of your custom floor

that you've added a trick or two without telling them what or


I began this section by stating the official version has no tricks.

This is true if you discount built-in "errors". The distributor of

the official version of Wolf3D insists that some floors are not

completely playable on purpose. I.e., hidden doors were

deliberately misplaced so you can never enter the area behind.

There are one or two more "impossible" situations built in. This

explanation fails to account for why so much design work went into

an area that you can't get into if no one was ever intended to see

a map of the area. Or why the official hint book urges you to enter

an area that is unenterable.


When designing a floor, you should strive to achieve a balance

among the various skill levels. For example, don't overload with

skill 1 & 2 guards, nor fail to add skill level 4 guards. With the

latest additions to Mapedit Version 7.0 by David Huntoon, Brian

Baker, and Matt Gruson, it is now possible to quickly see not only

what the balance looks like from the STATS, but you can

individually view the placement of all skill level guards. Plus you

can isolate the display of treasure, ammo, and health items, and

Super guards (bosses).

Narrow vs. Wide passages.

This'll seem obvious to you old hands. But for those just creating

their first floor(s), it is probably worth reminding you that

creating narrow passages slows the player who wants to set a record

for going from entrance to exit. Of course, every player who uses

that same hallway will have the same problem, but it's worth

considering. Interestingly enough, a narrow passageway seems to

make it a bit easier to nail "Arnold" if he's forced to follow the

player down the passage. The reason is, a narrow passage creates an

environment for a better aim and actors that are hit squarely will

not be able to shoot back if they can't move out of the way.

Why do narrow passages slow progress of the player? Any enemies

hidden in niches off a narrow hallway will impede movement by just

being there. The player won't be able rush by them without engaging

them in battle. If you want to hide someone off a long hallway,

place him at least two squares deep or widen the hallway, if



If you design a series of floors, be sure to leave a machine gun on

several of the floors (also a chain gun). Don't assume that all

your floors will remain together. Also, when someone has to start

a floor over after being killed, they need to find a machine gun in

a hurry. (I know, they should've remembered to save their game at

the start of each level, but....)

You can either hide a machine gun somewhere, or else place an SS

guard near the start. When he's killed, he'll drop his machine gun

for the player to pickup.

Over Designing - or Too Much of a Good Thing.

While there's a limit on the number of static objects (anything on

the floor except walls and guards) that can be placed on 1 floor

(400), if you try to place too many in one room/area, the game will

suffer from screen background clutter. This means that actors that

are in a room with too many other objects, will literally be

invisible, as will some of the objects, depending on the angle of

vision of the player. This is also true if too many actors come

streaming out of room. You'll lose 1 or more as your display screen

will not be able to refresh quickly enough to catch all of them

moving through the door.

The secret floor of Episode 4 of the official game is a perfect

example of this. When the player waits in the hidden room on this

floor for all 74 officers to come for a visit, they'll arrive too

fast for the screen to keep up and before you know it they're shot

from behind and they didn't see anyone go by.

There is a tendency for designers to load up a room or rooms near

one of the Super Bosses with ammo and first aid so the player has

a chance of surviving. As long as the player keeps these objects to

his/her back, there usually won't be a problem. But if the player

backs up too far and exposes lots of objects on the floor between

himself and the actor, the actor may flicker on and off the screen.

Not good!

One other example worth mentioning is a room filled with barrels

that are placed so as to provide an intricate pathway through the

area. Depending once again on the angle of view, many of the

barrels will disappear from view. As you turn they will reappear.

Any actors on the other side of the room will be invisible until

the player can get closer (if he/she survives that long).

So if you find you've got a room like those described above,

redesign it to limit the objects to a smaller area of view. Use

walls for partitioning off parts of the room or use smaller rooms,

or just eliminate some of the objects by placing some of them

elsewhere if you think you need them all.

Wrapping it up

It is hoped the above tips will help you design your floors with

greater confidence and fewer errors. At least you should be able to

recognize the symptoms when, for example, you come across a guard

in a trance, or doors open and close without sound.

Floor designing isn't difficult, only time consuming. Just get out

a large sheet of graph paper and grow your design. Then use the

Mapedit program to transfer your design to the screen. Next, test

it, fix it, test it, fix it, etc., etc., until you're satisfied

with the results. This is obviously an oversimplified explanation.

Your floor has to be saved to disk, then merged into the GAMEMAPS

file of a running game to test it.

All floors occupy an area 62 x 62 squares in which to layout your

designs. (The actual area is 64 x 64; the extra 2 squares in either

direction are the peripheral wall which has to be there. You can

add designs to it and change its color if you want). Try to leave

some space for your name to be added somewhere, and a floor title,

if you want one.

What To Do With Your Designs

If you already have 1 or more floor designs or would like to try

your hand at creating them, I would like to include your designs in

another episode of another package like this. You will get full

credit for your work by having your name placed in the floor design

(if it isn't already there) as well as listed in the credits

section of the manual. If you want to include any hints, put them

in a small file for inclusion in the manual.

Your designs will not normally be tampered with unless something in

them presents a problem. You will be contacted to see what you want

to do, or you can trust me to resolve the problem for you. Actual

inclusion into an episode will depend on, among other things,

factors such as complexity and originality, as judged by myself.

You will be informed if your design needs more work before being

included. The current 60 floor package did not always meet the

above criteria, but it was a start.

All designs remain the property of their designer, but cannot be

withdrawn after distribution. You're free to include your designs

in any other form, but I reserve the right to exclude them from my

package, if appropriate.

Cost of transmitting or mailing the file to me will be borne by

you. Diskettes will be returned if you include sufficient postage

(usually two 29 cent stamps are enough for one diskette). Contact

me in advance for my mailing address.

Warren Buss

Compuserve ID: 71044,3477

Prodigy ID: HNHM14A

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