Author Archives: scar3crow

My First Doom 2 Map

Tainted Waters.

It began as an exercise to challenge myself to actually sit down and learn Doom Builder.

The goal was to explore a variety of features and gain familiarity, enforced by the tight deadline, and to a degree inspired by Romero’s single session creation of e4m2. There was no planning involved, though in my downtime I would think on the layout for ways to improve it. Now I did hit a snag in my plan of weekly map releases…

I recovered faster than I feared it would take, but it did hit my self-derived momentum, but I had a new momentum, in the form of a not completely horrible looking level that was a functional layout. Functional layout meaning a player spawn, exit, triggers, locked doors, keys, secrets, and a variety of encounters. So I got back to it, having already clocked 20 hours, I engaged in that infamous final 20% which seems to take so much of the effort and began soliciting friends for playtests, and iterating on it from their feedback and my own play sessions and bug finding.

It is one thing to find bugs, but another to fix them, particularly on your first outing. I quickly learned how much error catching and good faith assumptions GZDoom makes for the player, as I ran into some ugly issues and locked off areas when testing in PrBoom+ and Chocolate Doom (and to a lesser extent, ZDoom). I ultimately decided to simply state that the map is best played with GZDoom, as I had developed some mapping habits that GZDoom had no problem with, but other clients did. Hopefully those habits will be broken on the next level.

I’m releasing it now, and will be uploading it for Doomworld’s /newstuff. I’m not a great mapper, yet, but I think this is an okay first effort, and I had more fun making than I’ve had playing most games. Maybe the next one can be done in under 20 hours?

You can download it here.

What Doom Is Not

At the heart of the advocacy from id about Doom 4 is the repeated references to Doom’s DNA, to the validity of this addition to the franchise. Reviewers and YouTube personalities are keen to demonstrate a command of FPS proficiency, and thus latch on to this while citing various parts of Doom 4 as being just like the original. This is understandable as it does add weight to a positive review in the form of a pseudo endorsement. “This is awesome because it is a given that the original is awesome, and I vouch that this reminds me of it.” The problem is, they are speaking of Doom as a memory, which it doesn’t have to be.

Since its release in 1993, it has always been playable on mainstream devices (and less mainstream gaming platforms, like, pianos) thanks to the original executable, Doom95, and the source ports surrounding the 1999 release of the engine code. There is no need to appeal to childhood memories when it is just as accessible today as it was on release. But this does seem to be their foundation, and I am being generous here, as if it isn’t the fault of memory, then they have serious sensory issues to work out. The following is a short list of Doom 4 attributes that Doom does not share, yet so many reviews insist that it does. Continue reading

Doom 4 Campaign Stream Thoughts

Bethesda and Twitch recently streamed an hour of the Doom 4 campaign, switching between a few different areas and showing quite a bit. I’ve got a variety of impressions from what was shown there.

This is borderline a stream of consciousness, I don’t have much good to say, and without that I often struggle to find a writing rhythm. I try to explain a little, and why I don’t like it.

The levels appear to function very much in the same vein as Painkiller, in that you progress from arena to arena, though there is a tiny bit more fighting in the between spaces – though those are mostly hallways. I didn’t notice if you are confined to the arena during the fight, but progress appears to be tethered to killing everyone in the area. The arenas themselves appear interesting, usually with three different combat heights and about a 40-60% overlap in pathways, and some connecting intermediary heights using geometry like crates, but the combat itself doesn’t seem to make much use of the third dimension. Monsters pursue you, and seem to favor close range attacks, in such a way that all of the fighting happens on the same level as you. I did see a little vertical combat where Cacodemons were involved, but not much. From what id has chosen to show, the combat is functionally a 2d affair, where you are concerned with what can walk to you.

On the subject of combat, it isn’t slow, but fast isn’t likely to come up either. It is a very even tempo, and one that will keep most people from getting bored. Due to the level design, it doesn’t seem the combat ever pushes you back to a previous area, or forward into further danger. It is all very… I don’t want to say scripted, but, foreseeable. The only real variance seems to be the meta layer the player can engage with, which is that of weapon upgrades, suit upgrades, and which runes they are using. Now they didn’t go into depth as to the various ways to get weapon upgrades, but it seems they can be tied to level challenges, and kiosks, and concerns unlocking found weapon mods. Suit upgrades appear to be based on finding tokens of a sort on a type of guard in the UAC? And runes are unlocked by completing isolated challenges, triggered by finding rune stations, and upgraded by using them in certain ways.
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Romero’s Take On Doom E1M8

It is very likely that if this is the sort of site you read, you’ve probably already heard that John Romero released a new Doom map, his take on e1m8. Many note that this is substantial due to how long it has been, but my takeaway was that it made it possible to play all of the first episode of Doom encountering only maps by Romero. E1M8 was designed by Sandy Petersen based off of scraps from Tom Hall, and it being a different mapper worked for a boss level, as the level signified change. It had the most somber song yet, and the clearest presence of the Hell themes. It was transitioning you to Shores of Hell, an episode with many maps by Petersen.

I’ll be reviewing the map on its own merits, but also in the context of being the level following E1M7, and of being constrained to the shareware content. Below the cut you’ll find not just the review, but my first playthrough of the map on YouTube. Due to GZDoom crashing and corrupting the video, you missed out on my first five deaths, so this video (recorded in ZDoom) has me changing my strategy and being aware of one secret.
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Quake’s Original Map Order

John Romero recently shared the original sequence of maps for Quake, as of March 26th 1996, using the internal file names. It revealed a different structure to how we think of the game. Where the final release is four distinct episodes with separate entrances from start.bsp, where episode one is a cross section of maps and styles, with the remaining episodes being primarily owned by a particular mapper and of just one theme, we now can see an earlier and different beast: There was no start map, and the game led with all of the base maps, before going through the themes of medieval, metal, wizard, and elder. Sure that sequence is familiar enough, but as I’ve covered before, Quake has a rhythm, where Doom has a flow. The interrupts of the base maps at the beginning of each episode lends itself to that rhythm. This original structure flows, more like Doom. Below you can see the full plan, and my write-up of how the sequence would go using the final file names, with the reference having been graciously provided by John.
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Duke Nukem 3d and Higher Difficulties

For someone who loves classic first person shooters so much, I’ve never been a fan of Nightmare modes. Doom had enemies respawning, Quake had faster attack rates (and a faster Vore firepod), Blood had substantially healthier enemies, and Duke3d, like Doom, went with respawning enemies. I didn’t care for these because they tended to mess with the rhythm of the game. Quake doesn’t feel like Quake with monster attacks spamming, Doom can’t build its sly creepy mood if you’re forced to keep moving like it is a deathmatch session, and the robed cultists in Blood should not require four shotgun shells.
duke0000
I recently dropped by GalleyUK’s YouTube channel, home of some of the finest playthroughs of first person shooters, and saw he had somewhat recently re-recorded his playthrough of Duke3d, all secrets, all monsters, all four episodes. But this time he did it on Damn, I’m Good, the game’s equivalent to Nightmare. Damn, I’m Good respawns the monsters, but only if a solid corpse is there. And Duke has corpses which react to splash damage. Immediately the pipebombs and laser trip bombs gained value beyond toying about (and in Dukematch). Galley would toss a pipebomb amidst corpses and detonate, or lace the room with lasers before leaving.
duke0002
Explosions are somewhat obvious, but this also inflated the value of the Shrinker and Freezer, elevating them beyond gimmick – they didn’t leave solid corpses either. Killing an enemy in a doorway would result in the corpse getting squished, also preventing a respawn. But my favorite was the HoloDuke, a toy copied straight out of Total Recall, I never found a use for it. But Galley, without any explosives to his name and an abundance of corpses, left the hologram running in a thoroughfare as he continued his exploration of the level. He later returned, and all of the enemies had respawned, but instead of fanning out in search of Duke, they were preoccupied with the hologram. He kept them in check.

Where other games, excellent games which I love, lose something from their highest difficulty level, Duke Nukem 3d gained an additional layer, and turned the trinkets into tools. We need more games like that.

For Beta Or For Worse: Black Ops 3 Multiplayer

I had months ago resigned myself to not playing the Black Ops 3 multiplayer beta. It came with the pre-order, and I’m leery of pre-ordering anything these days. Sure Black Ops 2 ran pretty well on PC, but it had a rough start with multi-core systems, and besides, I couldn’t predict how my life would be come the summer, or November.

Then I learned that the beta was actually open to owners of Black Ops 2, and just today, it became open to anyone. Go try it if you have an inkling of curiosity (that would be curiosity as measured in units of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien). I tried it, and am inherently an unreliable narrator as to the experience, seeing that my PC is just under the minimum requirements (a 6850 when a 6870 is the lowest level), but I played it on the Potato settings. Everything low or off, resolution set to almost half the native, and the frame rate capped at 30 FPS.

These substantial compromises resulted in a nearly playable experience, barring the frame drops which everyone seems to be having, at the cost of an aesthetic akin to Impressionist painting on the mixed medium of recycled cardboard and rejected plaster samples. But this is multiplayer, it’s about the combat.

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Doom … and Gloom

This is going to be a bit of a stream of consciousness following the Bethesda E3 stream. I might throw some pictures in if I feel like grabbing them, but I probably wont.

I have little hope for the new Doom at this point. I know that as someone with a testing background, I’m going to notice more flaws than the average person (your character isn’t even visible as a silhouette in the reflection of his Master Chief helmet), but showcasing the successor to one of the most PC gaming of games with a controller and a low FOV? Bad form.

I get why though, speed is perceived relatively, and slow gameplay looks faster when zoomed in, and on a controller. Yes I said slow. Now I realize that what we saw was likely tweaked for the sake of making a presentation, but that gameplay was… slow. It was faster than Doom 3, sure, but so is a screen saver. As I’ve detailed before, Quake has a rhythm, Doom has a flow. This game has neither. I applaud having more than two to four weapons equipped at a time, but the jolting pause of weapon switching during combat destroys any rhythm or flow. It feels like Zack Morris calling a time out, rather than selecting the most appropriate weapon to kill a demon.

The player movement speed doesn’t look particularly quick, it was certainly a more casual pace than how I played Advanced Warfare, and it doesn’t seem particularly necessary either. The combat was two dimensional, more so than in Doom/2. The player only had to look up during specific occasions, and during that time the only threats were on the level he was looking at. Combat was happening distinctively in arenas, or in small controlled groups with cool down spaces between. That isn’t particularly Doom, Doom is about level designs which pull you through combat, items, or curiosity, from one place to the next, forming a greater idea as to your environment and either building a sense of foreboding, or escalating the danger.

Hell was an arena with a few pillars and spawning enemies hopping down, Mars (not Phobos, yet again) was flat platforms connected around a skybox. Yes, the whole smelting environment looked cool. But it was a skybox effectively.

The chainsaw felt more like a canned animation trigger, rather than a weapon of variable usefulness depending on the opponent.

Items seem to mostly be dropped by monsters on death, emphasizing getting any kill over spatial awareness and resources. One low level enemy (killed by a single shotgun blast) dropped multiple rockets, which suggests that either the drops are random (ugh), or they fulfill what the game thinks is your present need (ugh ugh). Either way, the player relationship to the game world is altered by this quite a bit. It also looks bizarrely arcadey, more like something from Rez than from Doom.

The absence of reloading is nice, but coupled with everything else it just felt like a tick box for “old school” rather than an appreciation of what sort of gameplay it encourages.

The deathmatch looked like Halo, with gibs. SnapMap highlights how two dimensional the gameplay is (and I know people will say the original was two dimensional, but height variation and different sector height connections into earlier places was a major aspect).

I know this was a ramble, but, I had to vent. I shut the stream off once they finished with Doom. They don’t get it. They just don’t get it.

Games Are Better Without Consoles

The topic of consoles versus PCs is something which comes to mind for me rather often. I see the subject surface in strange little ways across a myriad of discussions, and once in a while in a big way. It is regularly debated in practically every place it can be, but it is always from the angle of the gamer, rather than the game. My issue with consoles isn’t one of value (though I do find them to not be a good value), but rather that when you develop for a console, it comes at the cost of the game. The hardware restraints, the common user setup, available input devices, and the garden wall structure all impose costs on the design and development itself. I don’t want console games on PC, I want the best games that can be designed and developed, and that won’t happen when a console is being considered.

Performance

The dedicated hardware of a console was for a very long time, the advantage of a console. Where PC gamers had to run a game on top of an operating system, consoles were comparably leaner, and the game had more resources at their disposal. The trick there was the different architectures between the consoles, so even if a developer had the freedom to release on the leading platforms, they rarely had the fiscal freedom to do so. Consoles were faster, but inflexible, and PCs were growing in both strength and selective standardization.

quake_n64

With the Xbox 360 and PS3 we saw more defined operating systems, and thus some actual overhead to the games, while at the same time PCs were immensely powerful. Sure the 360 and PS3 had some muscle behind them on launch, but that muscle was fixed. Over time, developers learned the systems and the games looked better and better. Competition naturally set in, and more of that processing power went toward the environments and effects. Games streamlined toward gated stories as we see in things like The Last of Us, where it is easy to control what a player can currently possibly see. As expectations of detail levels increased, larger and more open (in terms of choices and exploration) environments decreased. With the fixed hardware, the two could not coincide. Meanwhile on PCs, you simply need to raise the minimum specs some, or advise the user disable a more costly effect. The design wasn’t encumbered. When a game is being ported to PC from console, I expect more limited environments, and being forced down certain areas with no ability to backtrack. Continue reading

Quake and Doom’s Mechanics

So sock, level designer extraordinaire, had a tweet which triggered some interesting discussion:

I didn’t directly participate, as on this subject I find Twitter’s character limit to be too restrictive. Jehar and negke jumped in with thoughts, but I figured I would share mine here. At a glance Doom and Quake seem to be similar games. First person shooters made by largely the same team, and with the same key people of Romero, Carmack, and Petersen at the helm. But they have many fundamental differences, such that I find it hard to articulate it succinctly. As negke has dubbed me a master of verbosity, I shall do my best to live up to that. Continue reading