Staying Motivated As A Doom Mapper

Jan 11, 2019Doom, Tutorial

Dealing With Motivation

Obake, on the Doomworld forums, reached out publicly to ask how other mappers stay motivated and deal with a phenomenon they labelled “Mapping Sadness”. Their post read as follows:

How to Deal with Mapping Sadness

When I initially learned of Eviternity, I was sad. I felt like I would never be able to garner the same praise and attention with any of my works. I also felt wads like Elementalism would always overshadow my own UDMF maps.

This is a feeling many have to some degree. They want to do something great, they want to be remembered. Yet they feel as if their own work will never match up to those of another.

For the record, I have nothing but praise to give to the creators of Elementalism and Eviternity, and all other fantastic works. They deserve the accolades.

What I am really getting at is that it is normal to feel what I call mapping sadness. Everyone has felt poor about their own work when compared to others. It is okay to feel sad. What is not okay is to beat yourself up because you feel overshadowed.

This thread is about how to deal with mapping sadness, and healthy ways to get noticed and receive recognition. I have asked some of the creators of Eviternity to give their own views, and shed light on some of their own times of feeling sad. Perhaps projects they worked on that didn’t pan out, or didn’t receive recognition, or just general sadness when dooming, and how they overcame those feelings.

I would also ask other experienced members how they’ve overcome mapping sadness, too. Thank you all, and God bless.


Motivation Comes From Passion, Not Comparison

Since projects which I am a major part of (Eviternity & Elementalism, respectively) are listed here I felt obligated to talk about how I’ve been able to get to where I am as a mapper, and talk about the ebb & flow of motivation.

To compare myself to Obake here – I used to be “that person” – sad because my work didn’t make waves and gain some community buzz. That said, look where we are now? I’ve just released the first release candidate of Eviternity, and in the first couple of weeks after it’s release I saw what seemed to be 24/7 streams of it over on Twitch. I also received messages from a lot of various people, contacting me and others on the project to congratulate us on the effort – if you told the Dragonfly of the past this was where I’d get to, I’d have laughed and ignored the notion. “That’s not possible.” I would say!

The best way for me to explain how I’ve mostly overcome the aforementioned ‘mappers sadness’ is to turn this into story time and talk about my history as a Doom mapper.

From The Beginning

Let’s step back to 2005, where I first grabbed a copy of Doom Builder 1 after playing the Doom Collector’s Edition. I discovered a world of thousands upon thousands of new levels to play and a bustling community of people who shared an interest in Doom. Couple that with my innocence at the time (I was only 12 years old!) and I got very, very excited for Doom mapping! I found it very slow-going, hard to learn, but I was passionate and every day I’d get home from school and do a bit of mapping when I could.

Not long after getting to grips with the basics, I dropped a few map releases which were all commonly regarded as trash (under a different, now-forgotten username, oops!), and my mood took a bit of a hit. I wasn’t the top mapper, no sir, but I thought what I had made was good, so why don’t people like it?

All I Needed Was A Few Friends

This frustration, or mapping sadness as you say, was what made me take a break. I came back after a short while with a renewed interest and studied the maps of others and very quickly found I could actually make some similar stuff if I was just more patient – I just needed to get better at using the editor itself, so I made a few more maps here and there and just played them with a few friends I had on MSN Messenger. They were the morale boost I needed! They, like myself at the time, were also inexperienced mappers with a similar passion for Doom mapping and self-progression. We were always cheering each other on, being mind-blown by each others maps and inspiring each other to do better than we did before. This I found was the key to my continued passion and eventually my skill as a mapper.

What I’m trying to say here is, I feel you need to compare yourself to people who are roughly equal to you / slightly better, not the people you consider the best of the best. Find yourself a group who aren’t just mappers but are also willing to play and honestly critique your work without berating you. Try to outdo each other without making it a heated competition, you’ll see that with each map you’re all getting better.

With Renewed Motivation Came Regained Confidence

Step forward a short time and my confidence had returned, so I made an entrance on the ZDoom forums under my real name, Josh, and made a map for the TEN community project; suddenly my maps were met with praise instead of insults by the general public and I couldn’t have been happier. This moment could be considered the birth of my biggest project, Skulldash. I made a secret level in the community project which was essentially a proof of concept for the Skulldash gimmick.

From there, my memory is a little fuzzy, but I returned to being a more ‘private mapper’ for the most part. I only spoke to those who were my doom-friends and those who’d asked to be involved with Skulldash – occasionally popping back into the public forums to join community projects – I made a few maps here and there, such as duel maps and a couple of maps for the Skulltag multiplayer project, Hide’n’Seek.

This was probably the longest period of slow-moving progress though, I felt I had become a decent mapper but still the works of those I’d idolised were out of reach. My lack of self-inclusion in the greater community probably slowed me down, too.

Taking Breaks Allows You Tome Come Back Fresh and Inspired

Over the next 6 or so years I intermittently bounced in and out of doom mapping, filling the rest of my time with just general gaming and school. Every time I returned to doom, 2-5 Skulldash maps were made though, so I knew that EVENTUALLY a megawad would be made out of this; which served as a motivator and something to fend off the mapping sadness.

It wasn’t until 2015 where I realised I was close, and finally made my (seemingly permanent) reintegration into the doom scene as “Dragonfly”. I showed some screenshots and, like before, people praised them. This was the final motivational boost I needed to finish the project, get it out the door and start enjoying my place as a somewhat experienced mapper.

Now Look Where We Are!

I realise my online persona is occasionally going to come across as quite narcissistic and self-obsessed; but I have to be completely honest with you – sometimes you have to seek approval to receive it, so don’t be scared to post screenshots and share your works, and talk about past projects you’ve worked on.

Nowadays I’m making large, ambitious and well-praised projects like Eviternity, Elementalism, Skulldash: Expanded Edition, etc, and I couldn’t be happier with mapping. I rarely feel mapping sadness – but not never. I find now it’s not a case of inability to create the visions I have in my mind, but instead a genuine burn-out from being TOO active and ambitious.

I Have Three Core Sources Of Motivation Now

  1. I’ve become a Twitch streamer – My streams have gone from an average of 0-2 viewers to 20-30 viewers over the last two years. Knowing that I have a small audience of people watching me is notably nerve-wracking at times, but it’s also incredibly motivating. Perhaps you could consider streaming as a way to help you if your home environment is suitable – you don’t even need to use webcams and microphones, just lay down your favourite music and do what you love to do – map!
  2. Receiving the recognition of my peers and doom-buddies is still the biggest motivational booster in the world; and the fact that I’ve now met with a few of these people in ‘real life’ and am still in touch with them 10 years later really is a testament to the friendships I’ve built along the way.
  3. Dropping screenshots over on the Post Your Doom Picture thread on Doomworld and subsequently netting a handful of likes and a positive comment or two is a very quick motivational boost and also keeps people who are interested in your work excited for what’s to come. I seriously feel that this thread has made me a much better mapper, as I’m often equally motivated by being exposed to the fantastic work others post here.

Summary – Motivation During Different Skill Levels

New Mappers:

  • Don’t idolise the top mappers and let their work frustrate you.
  • Become friends with people who are of a similar skill level and try to motivate one another.
  • Take breaks from time to time, when you ‘grind’ out a skill, it becomes a chore – this is supposed to be fun!
  • Do not get upset when people say mean things, it’s gonna happen time to time, sadly.


Intermediate Mappers:

  • You’ll probably be much more confident in your skills.
  • Participate in more community projects, host one if you’re feeling bold!
  • Keep that circle of friends close, work with them on some maps too!
  • Again, you may get bad feedback, take it on the chin and read the lessons to be learned and be positive about how it will help you!
    • You can’t please everyone, so take negative feedback lightly


Experienced Mappers:

  • This is where you truly ‘find who you are’ as a mapper; what subgenre of doom is your preference, be it techbases, slaughter, gimmicky maps, etc etc etc
    • Despite finding your ‘type’ of map, I advise that you should still occasionally try new things and push the boundaries of what you know, instead of staying ‘comfy’.
  • If you are able to commit time to it, consider making a solo release that is ambitious – but not TOO ambitious.
    • Ensure whatever you are going to do is possible within your skill and time availability. Consider some of the following:
      • Make your most detailed map to date while maintaining a good sense of gameplay
      • Challenge yourself with limitations like 1024 or 10sector
      • Make a very large map
      • Make an episode or megawad if you’re up for it!
      • etc
  • You’re still going to get bad feedback, not everything you craft can be a masterpiece and in fact it SHOULDN’T be!
  • Let your ambition be ‘wave-like’, not every map you make has to be better than the last.
    • If you try to crack out your best work time and time again, you’ll hit a point where you’re ‘mentally’ being crushed by the weight of what you have to achieve.
  • Only map when you are in the mood to; sometimes I make maps when I’m not in the right frame of mind and it just isn’t good.
  • You’re forever learning, there is no such thing as a perfect mapper and never will be, but still try your damn best to get there!
  • This is probably the most important one: Take breaks from doom still. I am long overdue one and making a megawad in less than a year (Eviternity) has left me feeling very burned out. 😛

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