Choosing a level editor
To get started with level editing, you need to choose an editor that is right for you. If you want to jump right in to mapping, here are a few of the most popular ones (see editors for a comprehensive list):
- Doom Builder 2: This editor comes with many features and a 3D mode interface. It is also free.
- SLADE 3: This editor, like DB2, comes with a lot of features and a the ability to edit in both 2D and 3D mode. It is also free, and it doubles as an all-around WAD/PK3 editor as well.
- DeePsea: This editor contains a rich selection of features including sprite and texture editing built in. Deepsea is commercial software; there is a free trial version, but you must register to be able to save large levels.
- WadAuthor: This has a sector based interface instead of line drawing as other editors tend to use. It has a 30 day trial period before registration is required.
Almost every editor has its share of fanatical followers that will extoll the virtues of their preferred program and decry the weaknesses of the others. Others are less devoted and use a variety of editors to complete a level. The majority, however, find an editor that they are most comfortable with and stick with that.
Things to consider
An area of extreme importance, compatibility can often be a deciding factor. You need to consider what you would like to edit. For example, some editors are incapable of handling Hexen's map format, which may limit your mapping options. Others balk at Heretic, and there is always Strife to consider. Both DB2 and SLADE3 can map for all classic Doom engines.
As you will be working with the editor and using its features a lot, stability is an important consideration. Some editors have a number of bugs which must be worked around. DOS-based editors may encounter issues running under modern operating systems.
If you are planning on mapping for source ports, you may want to see if the editor can be modified to keep up with the changes that active source ports tend to undergo. Older editors may not support newer standards like UDMF. Both DB2 and SLADE3 support UDMF and other advanced port features; however in that respect DB2 can be replaced by its fork GZDoom Builder, which is newer and has increased support for advanced ZDoom and GZDoom features.
Some editors are more than simple level makers. Some contain various modes that allow you to swiftly perform touch-ups on a level in a visual way. Others go beyond level editing and are able to handle textures, sounds, and even lumps you have created yourself.
Looks and interface
When choosing an editor, keep in mind that you are going to be looking at it a lot. You are also going to be working with it a lot. So, then, you need to ask yourself: "Is this editor usable? Does it have anything that absolutely drives me up a wall?" Some things to consider are sector building style (line drawn, etc.), hotkeys, and prefab constructs.
Remember, choosing an editor is a personal choice. If you find yourself having difficulty with a particular editor, then try a different one. If you are more comfortable with your editor and the way it works, you will be able to produce better levels more easily.