Thursday, June 30, 2011

Trydent (TRYDENT.WAD)

TRYDENT
by Bjorn Hermans and Holger Nathrath


Bjorn Hermans and Holger Nathrath cranked out three Doom episodes early in the Doom community's history, known commonly as the Serenity trilogy. Afterward, they had two Doom II projects in progress that were never completed, Serenity For Doom II and Serenity IV. Whether the latter was to be a megaWAD or just an episode, we'll never know, but we do have a few levels that were originally designed for Serenity IV but were released independently following its death. Trydent, a MAP01 replacement published in 1995, is one such offering. As with Arachna, Hermans and Nathrath's duties are switched; here, Hermans is the mapper and Nathrath his playtester.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

All Hell is Breaking Loose (ALLHELL.WAD)


Up until the advent of DeHackEd, all of the "crazy" Doom mods were basically just sprite replacements. While Obituary is sort of the grand daddy of S.T.R.A.I.N. and some of the more subtle augments, the batshit insane mods can lay claim to The Sky May Be, or more sensibly, All Hell is Breaking Loose. Released in 1996 by one Joel Huenink, ALLHELL is a "near Total Conversion" for Doom II, replacing MAP01 to MAP05. It changes virtually all monster behavior, tossing many of them around in DeHackEd to make new and even more threatening beasties, and revamps Doomguy's arsenal to compensate for the increased lethality of the hordes of Hell.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Arachna (ARACHNA.WAD and ARACHNA2.WAD)

ARACHNA
by Bjorn Hermans and Holger Nathrath


Bjorn Hermans and Holger Nathrath are well-known in the Doom community for their Serenity trilogy, released over '94 and '95. Their body of work outside Serenity, however, is fairly light. They were apparently in the process of converting Serenity over to Doom II as well as releasing a Serenity episode entirely for Doom II, but both projects halted. Arachna is one of the few shreds of their work left, and surprisingly, it's by Bjorn Hermans! Nathrath did all the major mapping for the Serenity trilogy, so I found it interesting to see what Hermans was capable of. It comes in two flavors, Doom and Doom II, both being released around the same time in 1995 as E3M1 and MAP01, respectively.

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Lost Episodes of Doom (JPTR_V40.WAD)


Chris Klie, one of Doom's pioneer authors, was steadily cranking out levels for the original Doom in 1994. At some point, he caught the notice of Jonathan Mendoza, who wanted to write a story and strategy guide around it. Klie, excited to have his work published in a commercial format, agreed and suggested that they include Bob Carter in the project, another early player in Doom's burgeoning mod scene whose work Klie fancied. Both authors contributed much of the publicly released WADs they'd put out at the time. Together, they became The Lost Episodes of Doom, regarded as the first "commercial" megaWAD... even though the /idgames archive makes this 1995 collection of 24 levels almost entirely shovelware.

Friday, June 24, 2011

H2H-Xmas (H2H-XMAS.WAD)


H2H-Xmas is a lot of things. It is the sequel to Xmas Doom, a small 1994 Christmas-themed minisode that detailed Doomguy as the savior of Christmas. Indeed, some of the Xmas Doom personnel contributed to H2H-Xmas, most notably Joe Wilcox of Simply Silly Software, who went on to do the most reviled Duke Nukem 3D expansion, the similarly-themed Nuclear Winter. It is also one of Doom's first community megaWADs, though it was built on the foundation of the H2HMud competition, which challenged demo recorders to test their mettle in maps built by David Swift (and a few others), led by the Head to Head (H2H) Gaming Network. H2H never really caught on, though, and the ultra-hard level pack that resulted would have languished in obscurity... were it not for H2H-Xmas.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Xmas Doom (XD1.WAD)


Joe Wilcox has enjoyed something of a monopoly over the early days of FPS add-on content. As Simply Silly Software, he's been responsible for several utilities, including the D!Zone and H!Zone frontends, later going on to produce two commercial addons for Duke Nukem 3D, the better known of which being Nuclear Winter, a Christmas-themed production that ultimately pits Duke against a mind-controlled Santa Claus who is backed by aliens and the Feminist Elven Militia. Nuclear Winter will never win a popularity contest against Duke it Out in DC and Duke Caribbean, for reasons that vary from player to player, but it wasn't even the first Christmas-themed expansion that Wilcox had a hand in.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Enigma Episode (ENIGMA.WAD)


Of all the authors I've ever played, Jim Flynn is my favorite, and will probably remain so barring some kind of crazy Doom PWAD renaissance where people are straining to make large, complex levels that have solid themes or surreal texture and color combinations. Of course, Jim is mostly popular as one of the authors behind the Master Levels for Doom II, which brings us to an interesting point. The Enigma Episode, published back in 1995, is actually a re-release of almost all of Jim's older maps for the original Doom, painstakingly transmogrified to Doom II. I haven't played the originals, but some antiquarians were kind enough to put them on /idgames back in the mid-2000s.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Perdition's Gate research

Because I don't really have enough info to incorporate this into either the Perdition's Gate or Hell to Pay pages yet, I'm throwing something together right now because it's somewhat interesting info regarding the topic and I'm going to be touching on it in the near future. I dunno, it could be feature of its own, maybe something like Connections, but I'm not sure I'm sufficiently interested in other authors yet to really pull something together.

This is a little bit of puzzle-piecing I've cobbled together through independent research. Glancing through .TXTs, searching for author info on the archives, etc.. Tom Mustaine mentions on his website/blog that the Hell to Pay project was headed by an individual named Jim Elson, and that Elson along with Jimmy "Evilgenius" Sieben and Mackey "Avatar" McCandlish helped push Perdition's Gate out the door. Now, glancing through the .TXT file for Perdition's Gate, I come across the following credit list.


Lich: Artwork, Design, Production Manager, Sound
Tom Mustaine: Artwork, Design, Music, Production Assistant
ArchDaemon: Design, Programming
Mackey McCandlish: Artwork, Design
Pavel Hodek: Artwork
Bob Mustaine: Design
Mark Gundy: Marketing
Anavrin: Music
Kristin Weeks: Computer Voice
Jaroslaw Wolski: Artwork


Now, for some connecting. I've actually reviewed one of Pavel Hodek's works, Galaxia. He's also a fairly prolific author in the archives, particularly with deathmatch mapping, though he's worked single player into all the levels (as far as I have seen). Hodek was also one of the primary authors behind H2H-Xmas (which I will be reviewing in the near future), supplying 8 of the 32 maps of the series. It started as a branch off from a small mapset derived from the Head-to-Head International Doomers Competition (read more about it here on Doomworld, the sixth paragraph of ).

The original H2HMud team: Dave Swift aka "Mud", Jimmy Sieben aka "Evil Genius", Greg Lewis aka "Tree", Mark Gundy aka "Mag", and Jim Elson aka H2HMud. From what I gathered in a .TXT of a map by Jimmy Sieben, Elson ran the original H2H competition, and incidentally headed the H2H-Xmas project given his status as "Quality Control & final assembley". So, this establishes Elson as having project leadership skills, and working together with both Jimmy Sieben and Pavel Hodek, as well as Mark Gundy. I'd say H2H-Xmas planted the seeds of the Hell to Pay project, at least.

Here's something that confused me. Perdition's Gate lists neither Jim Elson nor Jimmy Sieben as having worked on it, yet we can clearly see from Tom Mustaine's own recollections that they did. Two people credited for "Design" in Perdition's Gate are using handles, "Lich" and "Archdaemon". From this, we can deduce that Jim Elson, indicated by Tom Mustaine as the project manager and already established as a project leader , used the handle of Lich for Perdition's Gate for reasons unknown. We can also deduce that Jimmy Sieben used the handle of ArchDaemon for Perditon's Gate, again for reasons unknown. Actually, hold it.

Final Doom was released May 31, 1996, though I understand that TNT Evilution had been commercially developed for some time, as TNT's following WAD, Icarus: Alien Vanguard, was released more than two months prior. TNT's own website page for Evilution declares that the original WAD was finished in November, 1995 (!!). Perdition's Gate (and, I assume, Hell to Pay) was released in 1996, I'm betting in the wake of Final Doom. As suggested by Doomworld forumgoer T-Rex, Siebens probably used an alias to distance himself from Evilution, which the community had had a less than glowing reaction to. Additionally, looking through TNT's member names associated with project lists, you can clearly see Jim Elson, aka H2H, credited as a contributor to Evilution. In the list Ty Halderman dropped in this thread on Doomworld, you'll notice that Elson isn't credited as doing any mapping work for Evilution. However, in that same post, Ty states that

"Of course this is just the levels--there was a lot of other stuff done that virtually equaled the effort in doing levels. In fact we only divvied up 1/2 of the purchase price as being for level work."

I'm gonna guess that Jim Elson, given his previous history with H2HMud and H2H-Xmas and what I know of Perdition's Gate and Hell to Pay, worked on TNT Evilution somewhere in the realm of project management, maybe even "Quality Control & final assembley". As such, I'll posit that he used the moniker of Lich for this project for the same reason Jimmy Sieben did. Mackey McCandlish had no such need, not having participated in Final Doom. Of course, that doesn't account for why Tom Mustaine brazenly slapped his name on the project, given that he was just as much a part of Evilution as everyone else. I can only conclude that Tom Mustaine gives no fucks, and that makes him one of the greatest mappers of all.

What I take away from this is that the two Wraith Corp. Doom II commercial MegaWADs have far more in common with the similarly commercial (but overseen by id) TNT Evilution than I originally thought, and that's even knowing that Tom Mustaine started Perdition's Gate with the intent of selling it to id as part of Final Doom. If there are alternate universes, perhaps one has some commercial Final Doom trilogy. There's some interesting parallels, too. Tom and his dad as relatives crafting a megawad with Milo and Dario as relatives working on Plutonia, and here, instead of Milo and Dario getting split off from Evilution to craft their "solo" project, Tom and his dad started out with a solo project and got the rest of the Wraith Corporation team grafted on to it. Now I'll never be able to divorce the idea of the Wraith Corp WADs as a sister series to id's Final Doom.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Doomed Makes a New Friend

I started this Blog back in April with the intent of posting the various notes I'd made of WADs as I played them. You could call them reviews, and I've labelled them as such, but I don't intend to judge Doom's user-made content on an empirical basis. I just want to say what it is, what I liked, and what I didn't like, attempting to mention one memorable encounter (especially when reviewing the hulkier MegaWADs). Hopefully what I like outweighs what I don't like, but even if I find myself disliking something, I try to find at least one novel thing, one reason why playing something is worth your time.

It's evolved a bit, as I'm also adding general news I pick up from the Doom community, some of it easily found at Doomworld and some of it not. I've also sneakily reformatted pages, cooked up second drafts, and added screenshots to every review page, something I hadn't intended, and made review indexes by filename and title (author and possibly initial release date to come). And now, Doomed makes a friend.

I don't know how many Doomers have Doom blogs. I know some of them have websites. But Herculine has the first Doom blog I've come across. She's a mapper and a modder and a WAD reviewer, probably more known for her modding at this point. She's crafted a gameplay mod for GZDoom in the vein of Aeons of Death and Scaliano's 667 Shuffle. It's an item and monster randomizer with new content, some things coming from Realm667, and some things I understand are illicit cocktails of the author's own design.

She's also released two maps of her own design to the archives which have unfairly fallen to an anonymous Oblige accusation frenzy, which is interesting as both maps underwent some open criticism in Doomworld's forums with none of the critiquing authors crying foul. Just gonna chalk it up to archives being archives, I guess, as both maps got encouraging feedback on the forums and had positive reviews on the archives before Oblige trolling.

She's pretty heavy into mods at this point but I hope she dusts off her mapping tools in the future since the veterans at DW saw some promise rather than uniformly trashing her work like they usually do with undesirables. Practice makes perfect and from what I see every mapper has some unreleased skeletons in their closet. No one has to toss out a MegaWAD on their first shot; Hell, Skillsaw's Vanguard got cut down to a 13 map affair and is a lean, mean Dooming machine.

Doomed salutes you, Herculine. Keep fighting the good fight.

Nostromo's Run (NOSTROMO.WAD)

NOSTROMO'S RUN
by Rich "Nostromo" Johnston


Rich "Nostromo" Johnston would go on to be one of the major players in Banjo Software, responsible for the unfortunately half-baked HACX TC. He got his start here, with Nostromo's Run, a MAP01 replacement for Doom II that was released in 1995. Johnston didn't make a whole lot of levels, but the ones he did tended to be big, sprawling affairs. Like this one! Nostromo's Run made it into the favorite lists of ancient Doomers who like fairly big, sprawling levels with a lot of different themes, kind of like your Polygon Bases. It helps that Johnston was pretty good about stuff like vanilla detailing and lighting.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Final Gathering (GATHER2.WAD)


Daniel Norman was a member of that initial rush of '94 Doom fervor, releasing The Final Gathering as a three-map episode for the original Doom. Next, he converted the levels to Doom II and added another, before finally adding in one of the levels he'd released as an independent coda of sorts (Dark Side of the Mind) to make it a five-map episode. The final release as covered in Doomworld's Top 100 WADs of All Time is a bit of an odd duck that's split between different periods of artistic sensibilities, and truth be told, it's the later additions that earn it a place in the conspicuously hallowed halls of Doom's history.

The Artifact (ARTIFACT.WAD)


Paul Schmitz is a member of a very small school of authors that includes the likes of Jim Flynn, Bob Evans, and Sverre Kvernmo. It's not just the fact that all of them were contributors to Eternal Doom, but all of these people tend to make large levels where navigation and puzzle play is just as strong of an opponent as the monsters you're supposed to be focusing on. Schmitz had his big debut with The Artifact, and he's revisited it several times. The first was for Doom, and the second updated the level for Doom II. For the third, Schmitz went back and substantially reworked every level for the Boom engine on top of using Team TNT's RETRES resource pack, creating an experience that's both familiar and alien at the same time. Since the version linked in Doomworld's Top 100 WADs of All Time was the Doom II version, that's the one I played, and the one this review is focused on.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

A Fistful of Doom (FISTFUL.WAD)


A Fistful of Doom is a charming little partial conversion from the early days of modding. 1995, to be exact. Bob "Soutec" Soutar and A-Ware are still lurking around, though A-Ware goes by Azeraaron nowadays. They left a pretty early but significant mark on the Doom community with A Fistful of Doom, and with the recent advent of stuff like Pirate Doom, I'm really hankering for a Western-themed TC of a similar caliber. And, well, that's why Fistful is so tantalizing. Its fidelity within the bounds of early vanilla PWADcraft is remarkable, and while all the assets may not exactly match up, they do about as good a job as anyone could have expected... In fact, I'll say they do a job better.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Not Quite News

Finished playing Doomworld's 10 best WADs of '94. I'm not done playing '94 WADs, just done with these ones. Also added a WADs page sorted by WAD title rather than filename which is probably easier to navigate for your average Doomer. The filename page remains, however. Not sure what's next on my agenda, perhaps a replay of Klie's "The Lost Episode". I may appreciate it more...or not. 

Aliens TC (ALITCWAD.WAD)


The Aliens TC, released by Justin Fisher in 1994, is Doom's best-known "TC" and also one of the few high-quality partial conversions using popular commercial assets that remains on the /idgames archive. For awhile, Fisher's name became a pretty hot property, and everyone was watching and waiting to see what his next project would be. In the end, all we have is the remnant of the Nemisis TC, and about an entire world's worth of promise. Fisher left a profound mark on the game industry, from the aspect of user modifications to actual industry professionals some years down the line, and even got to see Terry Pratchett (RIP) play an early beta at a sci-fi con. And, well, that last bit may be the greatest accomplishment of all, depending on your outlook in life.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Galaxia: The Ultimate Czech Level (GALAXIA.WAD)

GALAXIA
THE ULTIMATE CZECH LEVEL
by Pavel Hodek


The story - you're part of a pair of survivors still living after the spaceship Galaxia suffered through a swarm of asteroids. You resign to repair the ship. Unbeknownst to you, the ship is headed toward a black hole, and because this is science fiction, your ship travels through the hole to another place entirely and escapes the usual fate of compression to a singularity as befalls most matter. Smarminess aside, you land on an alien planet, find a post-apocalyptic race of telepathic subterranean humans terrorized by giant spiders, and join the resistance before shit goes crazy and you're forced into action.

Get all that? Okay.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

DoomX Update 06/01/2011

DoomX put out another status update recently, mostly just to say that the developer was introducing more extensive custom weapons to the project than he'd originally intended and showing off his freeze gun, a video of which plays at the top of the site. There's also a bonus gift, I believe a file housing his custom monster, The Loper, in its current state. He also hints at some other new monsters he's thinking of spriting up, explicitly mentioning the Cherub! Again, I'm pretty stoked observing this project and Pierre can take all the time he needs to do this right, 'cause it'll be a blast.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Crossing Acheron (ACHERON666.WAD, ACHERON2.WAD)

CROSSING ACHERON
by John "Dr. Sleep" Anderson


Crossing Acheron is the second level in John "Dr. Sleep" Anderson's Inferno series, loosely inspired by Dante's Inferno. Of the eight available maps (many of which can be found as part of the Master Levels for Doom II), only two are available on the idgames archives: the precursor, Dante's Gate, and this one. Like its progenitor, it comes in several different flavors, but I'll be differentiating between 1.666 (for Doom) and 2.0a (for Doom II).  The story so far - you've passed through Dante's Gate in order to find your beloved Beatrice and wind up on the shores of Acheron (whose features are not included in the map, a fact noted by Anderson in the .TXT). Your guide, Virgil, is missing and you're already under assault by demonic forces. Like any good hero, you must continue to seek out Bea, slaying everything in your way.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Dante's Gate (DANTE666.WAD, DANTE25.WAD)

DANTE'S GATE
by John "Dr. Sleep" Anderson


id employed a number of independent Doom mappers for their Master Levels project. Perhaps the most notorious them is John "Dr. Sleep" Anderson. Not because his works are reviled, no - Anderson's infamy is currently a product of his seclusion. His body of work is fairly well documented, but remains as of this time incomplete. His Inferno series, inspired by Dante Alighieri's work of the same name, was (is?) supposed to be a 9 map series. Eight of those maps have been released, with Dante's Gate and Crossing Acheron publicly available on the idgames mirror. Dante's Gate is the first in the series, occupying either E1M1 or MAP01 depending on which version you're playing - 1.666 for OG Doom or 2.5 for Doom II. There are more versions than these available, but these are the two I'll be discussing.

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Unholy Trinity (TRINITY.WAD)

THE UNHOLY TRINITY
by Steve McCrea, Simon Wall, and Elias Papavassilopoulos


A lot of folks that mapped for Doom in the golden age made imitations of real places, be they their work places, houses, or schools. Occasionally you'd see a few crude graphics that placed the map apart from Doom's aesthetics, but the textures were unmistakable. Steve McCrea took level design to the next level as early as 1994. He ran around his college campus, Trinity College, snapping shots of all the buildings and whatnot, made some new textures, and got together with his friends to make a map out of it. In the end, we get The Unholy Trinity, a decidedly goofy E1M1 replacement that plays pretty well.

Doomsday of UAC (UAC_DEAD.WAD)

DOOMSDAY OF UAC
by Leo Martin Lim


The plot: Hellspawn just attacked a UAC base. Your bosses send a truck to pick up you along with five other marines. Just outside of the complex, the invaders attack the truck. Luckily, they miss the false wall at the trailer's front, and when you come to, you spill out into the cabin, taking on the invading force all on your lonesome as your buddies are nowhere to be found. Sure, the odds suck, but someone's got to do it.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Return to Phobos (RETURN01.WAD)


If the original Doom has given us anything, it's the basis for a bajillion episode replacements. The perennial favorite, Knee Deep in the Dead, has inspired most of them, rivaled only by Thy Flesh Consumed, likely since that wasn't part of the initial release. Return to Phobos is an Episode One replacement circa '94 from Michael Kelsey. Kelsey was the author of what many consider to be Doom's first "serious" level, STONES. RETURN delivers on the promise of early forays with the editor to produce a nice selection of early but playable Doom levels with a mostly Phobos-like texture scheme.