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Well Doom maps seem to manage it, limit ammo somewhat, start the map off with easier monster placement/lighter traps, use larger numbers of small monsters, although it seems Quake players are more against larger groups where this would be suitable (big packs of Knights and Scrags are awesome fun with the RL imo).

I think it's a bit weak just saying it's the only way to pace a level. We all know you'll spend 80% of the map with SSG/NG shooting knights and ogres, and toward the end we'll get a few shamblers and vores, and one final battle that is way harder than all the rest of the map, because it has to end that way. 
My Axe For My Honnour 
I don't think it worthy killing knights with a grenadelauncher.
There was a time I only fight them with my axe.

What secrets remain if you start full armed?

Plain to me to start with a thunderbold, just don't give ammu so the range is five.
And only search for enforcers to replenish that. 
In stock Quake, you get powerful weapons quite early and there's usually a suplus of ammo, especially rockets. But it's more a matter of multi-map play (episodes), whereas custom maps single instances, so they use slow weapon progression to make the map last longer and be more challenging - although it does tend to get old. No reason not to give RL and LG early on and limit their use by ammo placement (making them special weapons for the right situations), or layout-specific things like tight corridors or water areas.

Depends on the map of course. In general, I wish maps with many (hell) knights and ogres would give GL or RL earlier, because working one's way through hordes of knights with the SSG gets boring in no time. Regardless of secret. 
I'm Fine 
With giving the player powerful guns early, as long as it makes things more fun.

Slogging through tons of grunts with SSG and nails does get boring.

High or low power weapon gameplay can both be done badly, saying that one is inherently better than the other is like saying there is only one correct gameplay, which everyone should copy to the letter.

I had RL Vs knights working well one time, since it was in compact areas with lots of sharp turns - got hairy pretty quickly.

I love base maps that give you the GL Vs grunts as well - its not the easiest weapon to use and is also open to splatting groups if used right, making it a very satisfying skill test.

It's probably just me, but I think the slow build up thing is getting over used. 
Quoth Maps With Early PG 
Are the bomb. 
Something I Never Seen In Quake 
secrets getting harder on harder difficulties. With movement based secrets (jumpy things this would be pretty easy. Multiple button secrets you could be that you have to shoot only 4 "red herring grates" on easy wich are realy straight forward to spot, and on higher skills you would need start to go look for those other herrings wich might be placed a bit more obscure. Or some multiple buttons wich need to be shot/pushed within a certain time else they reset and lower the reset time or make it harder to get them at higher skills 
The Problem With That 
is that secrets are already only appreciated (or actively looked for) by a subset of your audience, so any extra work put in to individually balance them for subsets of that subset, seems a little bit extravagant to say the least. 
combat skill != secret hunting skill 
i am aware czg did a similar thing with his easy skill secret noise so feel free to ignore my (probably crap) opinions. 
kinn: it depends what secrets though.

it can be argued that czg's method makes easy skill easier by increasing the amount of secrets players find.

otoh, if your secrets are mainly exploratory ones, then giving them away on easy makes less sense. 
I used to think +1 health or armour items in Doom were stupid, but actually now I think if you're going to have secrets, they are great as a simple generic reward. They're pretty crap amounts of health, but always usable because they go over the base cap. 
yes, same here. i used to think they were useless as well.
but they're nice to just put everywhere. for the exact same reason i thought they sucked-- they don't severely impact gameplay but can still add up if you find enough of them. i'd say they are devalued a bit when you are below health though. 
I Think... 
... many secrets in map are cool, and having different difficulty levels of finding them is also good. The more finding a secret is, the more the reward should be.
Additionally, I think that having encapsulated secrets (a secret place, located in another secret place) is a kind of bitch I tend to like: I have seen that too less. 
I Like Secrets 
They add to the replay value of the map, and give an incentive to really *look* at every part of the mappers work. I think I generally prefer if they _don't_ make too much difference to the gameplay, although stuff like armour is always nice -- it makes things a bit more relaxed, without really changing what is possible or not.

On the flip side, in big mega maps they can be a bit intimidating in the "so I've found 8 of 9 secrets, so somewhere in this 400 monster map there is a nook I haven't found..." sort of way. 
I Wonder... 
...if it's possible to dynamically change the contents of secret areas according to how of many of them have been found up to that point? To have nothing in them at start and to spawn items when the player finds them, and reward them by their secret count? I don't have the technical knowledge but it might be an interesting concept. 
A less strange, but similar idea, would be to have all the secrets contain a single rune (I chose "rune" arbitrarily; it could be any other custom collectible) and then in areas that get high traffic or are easy to revisit, you could have obvious "rune gates", that only open if you have "x" runes, and behind them lies some sort of goodie that's better depending on your runecount.

The advantage of this is that you're not limited to just items as "goodies", the rune gate could lead to a shortcut, or secret level or whatever. Also you can tease the player by letting him see what's behind the gate. It can also be made as granular as you want with lots of runes scattered all over the map, in secret and not-so-secret places (have a 10-rune gate, 20-rune gate, 50-rune gate etc...)

Also, I'm doing this in one of my maps. 
never tell people your secret design plans beforehand Kinny! 
But Does That Apply 
if it's all part of an elaborate bait/switch?


Srsly though, the idea's no different to that used in a million other games that let you access goodies after you've collected a certain amount of crap.

My original plan was to make the runes persist across all levels, and you can revisit earlier levels to get into doors that were too high level the previous time around. I've kinda abandoned that idea really because the amount of cocking about required to make a proper "persistant level states across an episode" system is disproportionately high considering all we're trying to achieve is basically just some stupid collectible item gimmick. 
You Could 
(this is id1 with no mods) have a bunch of switches hidden in the level that modify the item in a secret. by moving the items about on funcs. The item in place in the secret is upgraded depending on the number of switches pressed, then when the player is finally ready to collect the item they press a final switch and commit to that item. When the final switch is pressed, the other switches are all killed (maybe the items can be killed directly, but I never tried) so the player can't get multiple items.

You could even do something evil like give the player a rotten health if they find a bad switch (or get them all as punishment for being too good.) I can imagine using this before as a regular level puzzle that is announced to the player at the start of the level and treated as a challenge. "PRESS THIS BUTTON ONLY WHEN YOU ARE READY!"

I'm not exactly sure how the thing that moves the items about would work though... Could just kill the old item and drop new items from above I guess. 
"using this before a boss encounter" 
I guess you could have the floor where the items appear be illusionary and have multiple lifts underneath that bring up items. When the next switch is triggered the current lift and items are killed and the next brought up. You could also have a door that comes down over the items to hide the switch, so that it looks like some kind of magic trick. That would be kind of cool I reckon. Might work nice in an Egyptian themed level or similar.

The items and switch to commit to those items could be in front of a door to the final encounter. If you press the switch when you start the level, you get no items and have to tackle the encounter with sg, 25 shells and your axe :) 
Uhh, Than 
While complicated setups are certainly cool, you could also put the whole set of possible items in the secret area and killtarget all but one depending on the player's actions. Saves you the trouble of messing around with doors and illusionaries.

At least this is how the items are changed depending on game mode in the mappis. 
Yeah, but I was suggesting it would be cool if the player could see the item they would get if they press the switch to commit. They might see the foreboding door in front of them and think "hmm, this isn't enough". 
I doubt any player would understand what was going on ;) 
I'd love to see the new than Egypt map. 
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