Up: verticality in Slipgate Chokepoint

11 Aug, 2020, updated 16 Aug, 2020 sgcp quake

One of the rumours about Quake level design is that id Software required all levels to be impossible to write in Doom. Leverage your USP, right? That Unique Selling Point was the game being properly 3D and allowing multiple things to exist in the third dimension. Doom was basically 2D with a height map.

Vertical space isn’t something I think about at all for dungeon design, I’d literally do “a level” or “a room” at a time! So, how can I learn from Quake and make more interesting levels?

Worth noting, a lot of this isn’t unique to Quake, before someone says “platforms existed before Quake”.

Vertical space in Quake

A castle in Quake 1

I can’t remember how to reach the Quad Damage in Gloom Keep any more

OK the last two are more set-piece/flavour things.

Design for Slipgate Chokepoint

So, how do we make play with these features?


These aren’t in Stay Frosty, so I don’t think these are hard-and-fast, but something to be considered on a case-by-case basis.

  1. Firing down on someone gives a benefit. Either:
    • Firing with with advantage
    • Reduce range by one (e.g. grenade launchers will go for miles)
  2. Melee downwards gives advantage
  3. Jump on enemies!!!

Obviously there’s also the Stunt Die as well but that’s typically for a damage bonus. You could instead grant a bonus movement though or cover. I’m a fan of trying to reward circle-strafe behaviour, in general.


The first thing for me would be to not think about the points on my pointcrawls as being rooms, but instead anyplace. So for instance, if you’re making a Castle (of the Damned perhaps? 😏) then there could be a few points around it. Different areas of the moat perhaps, maybe with access down to the foetid water to reach the sewers. The sewers can definitely be a point!

The walkways around the castle can omit guardrails (no H&S in the Flayed Domain). Stairs are related here in that PCs can push and be pushed down them.

Platforms can need Brawn to jump to them, or Dexterity to land successfully. Hit the ground hard or land in water? Watch out for the fish!

Elevators and slipgates can’t quite be used in the same way I don’t think. An elevator can’t quite have the players stop, take a breath, and admire the new part of the level they’re entering. A slipgate on the other hand can definitely give a Big Hint that you’re entering a new section. Quake slipgates are nearly always one-way, after all.

Surprise Ogre

Verticality can just be a barrier, here’s a surprise Ogre (it’s nearly always an Ogre) firing grenades at you and guarding a button you can’t reach anyway. The water in this screenshot is shallow which is a surprise, it could have been meaner.

An ogre guarding a button, unreachable

In a room next door, pressing a button and dashing back grants you a temporary corridor. I’d consider having this permanent unless it’s visible. Ooo, or I wanted to split the party 😈

Same scene, the button is accessible from a ramp

The problem with playing Quake levels for screenshots is that I run out of ammo.

Definitely a Quake trope for me is an Ogre in a location in the room that’s not immediately reachable, dropping grenades on me and roaring. This is either from a walkway I’ll access later, or a platform you can’t actually access at all without performing a trick (drop from above, later, or rocket jump).

I think in Slipgate to make this interesting I’d possibly let the Ogre have an (temporary?) advantage, or some kind of surprise attack. And then for the truly annoying times, it needs to be out of the best range of shotguns and especially super shotguns. Force players to either get close, or dodge it until they can reach it later, closer. Or even change weapons! The more times they change, the more supply dice they have to roll, after all…

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