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Doom - Flow through Level Design

A quick look at how the Doom level, The Necropolis, uses lighting and composition to create flow.

Joey Simas, Blogger

August 26, 2016

5 Min Read


Doom has always been known to have great Level Design, and the newest entry in the series remains true to its glory days. In a market where more methodical and tactical shooters reign supreme; New Doom offers a refreshing experience. It’s fast paced, gory, run and gun fun at its finest. I was overwhelmingly pleased with how the game felt. iD Software did a fantastic job making the player feel like a badass. From the music to the level design, everything in game contributes to the experience of being the Doom Slayer.


The Necropolis is a level that appears later in the game. Your mission is this; “You fought your way through Hell and found the Titan’s Core- a portal that gets you one step closer to the Crucible and defeating the forces of Hell for good. You must crush the Crucible guardians and retrieve what is yours.”

The Level

The Necropolis is actually much more narrow and linear then most Doom levels. However, what it lacks in exploration, it makes up for with a level that’s made for speed. Most arenas will have you moving quickly to dodge enemy’s attacks, but the narrow build of this level makes it feel like you’re kicking the doors down to hell, and no Baron is going to stop you.

Part of what makes this so enjoyable is the composition and flow of the level, which is what I'll be focusing on here. From the get go, you are shown your objective. Two doors, one blue and one yellow. Time to find some keys, or since we’re in hell, some skulls.

The pillar subtly blocks your path forward so you’ll naturally turn ever so slightly and see the green glow of a portal, and you’ll be whisked away to slay some demons. This use of color and light to direct the player is second nature for level designers, and its put to great use here. Blues, Yellow (bright anyways) and Green are really eye catching in a dark brooding environment such as the necropolis because they contrast so well.

On the other side of the portal, the level steers the Doom Guy forward with corridors and small arenas. Making good use of punch outs to break up the monotony of hallways.

Once you’ve done away with the forces of hell in this area, you’ll snag the yellow skull and return to the entry hub. Returning to place the key in the door is done nicely by keeping what’s important in the frame. You climb up the ledge, which puts the yellow door perfectly in frame and then the green glow of the next portal catches your eye. The level is designed to keep you charging forward. The same is done on the return trip from the blue door. I tried grabbing some gifs to show the flow in action, they were a bit too big in file size. Whoops!

Yellow Key

Blue Key

Further in the level is another nice example of how lighting and contrast can be used to direct the player. In this room there is a simple platforming area that gives you brief respite from the demon hoards. Because the torches glow contrasts against the blue of the room, the player is naturally drawn to them. The jumps here aren’t meant to be challenging, it’s just used to break up the gameplay before another big fight. At the same time, you don’t want the level to slow down too much. The player will likely not even read the level the way some of us do, in the context of its design. Instead they will just flow naturally along the designer’s desired path. That is where Doom succeeds so well.

Nearing the final rooms is another nicely composed set. Here you can clearly see where you need to go, and again players should be naturally drawn to it. The walls, chains and skull all subtly draw lines toward your goal. Lines are a great way to lead the players eye through the scene.

Once you do get to your final destination you are treated with a boss battle with the Crucible Guardians; these guys. Whoops! Another Gif that was too big... 

Crucible Guardians 


But that’s enough of my rambling about Doom. The Necropolis was a great level that kept the fast paced action coming. I think it’s a good example of how a more linear level can be done right. If you look at it as a whole, it offers a different experience then the other levels because it’s much more focused and direct. It truly gave you the feeling of breaking into hell by force. Even the arenas contribute to the move fast and shoot faster feeling.


Did you enjoy Doom? What was your favorite level?

You can connect with me on Twitter or through my Website

Thanks for reading, I’ll see you in the next level!

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