Let's try Caesium
I was really hoping for a quiet week. I'm off to the other side of the world in a few days' time, and have a ton of things to do before I set off. So, what arrives in /newstuff? Sure enough, a megawad that has been in the works for nine years turns up, and so does a new episode by one of the community's most respected mappers. Sigh. So here goes... See you in November!
- Simply Phobos by Paul Corfiatis and Kristian Aro
754kb - Doom.exe - SP - 10 maps - (img) - (img) - (img) - (img)
This is a fun wad that I imagine most Doomers will enjoy blasting their way through. It is a full E1 replacement, fully in keeping with the original in just about every respect, together with an E2M9 that has a far more modern feel to it. I don't understand why these two apparently unconnected items have been slapped together in the same wad, but I'm not complaining either!
I must admit that I am not the world's greatest E1 fan, but I thoroughly enjoyed the episode. The difficulty level (on UV, pistol starts) is very low indeed, and unless you're very careless/reckless, you should never be in any danger of dying. There are quite a few little surprises, but no truly life-threatening traps. The maps aren't very linear, and you can basically do whatever the hell you like. The lack of challenge might limit the replay value for casual Dooming, but turning on fast monsters is one way to avoid feeling like the playground bully, if that feeling troubles you. Also, if you start trying to run through the maps faster, they bite back quite nicely, as you'd expect.
The gameplay flows extremely well. There is no humping of walls to find essential secrets, and you shouldn't spend long wondering where to go next. There are relatively few switches to press, and very little waiting around. Design-wise, there is little that needs saying - everyone knows what E1 is like, and this episode is fully in keeping with it. I don't recall noticing any real flaws. Some of the maps are reminiscent of the one they are replacing, but in no way a copy. The only significant challenge if you play carefully is finding the secret exit, but you might want to skip that anyway, since E1M9 is, I think, the weakest map of the episode. The music is new, and made by Paul Corfiatis. You'll probably recognize the style from 2002ADO - I find it mostly fits the mood quite well, and consider Paul to be among the best composers in the Doom community. There is a bug in E1M2, of a type that has occurred in quite a number of maps made with Doom Builder recently (linedef 852 requires a non-zero tag). I'm not completely sure, but I think that linedef will only work as intended in Zdoom. In Doom.exe, pressing on the lift in question causes a crash ("no more plats"), while in other exes (e.g. purely limit-extending ports) it has some strange effects; it can easily leave the player trapped, but can also be used as a slight shortcut. It's avoidable though, since you don't need to lower that lift from that side in order to complete the level.
Kristian Aro's E2M9 is, as I mentioned above, a wholly separate entity, and could just as well have been released on its own. It is a moderately large map, and quite challenging, with a good range of monsters to battle. The design themes include green marble, vines, lava and hellish underworld-type stuff. There are good battles, and a number of little shocks and surprises (the cyber room is awkward in several respects, and yes, that "exit" is much too good to be true). It took me about half an hour, but then I suck. Note to anyone who doesn't like the E1 style at all: it would be worth downloading the wad just for this map.
This is a worthy wad of the week.
- Hellcore by Robert "Fusion" Babor, Devon "Darkfyre" West and others
23,084kb - Various ports needed + Doom2 - SP - 32 maps - (img) - (img) - (img) - (img)
Here we have a full 32-map megawad for Doom2, about nine years in the making. The full list of creators is: Robert "Fusion" Babor, Devon "Darkfyre" West, Brad "Vorpal" Spencer, Chris Hansen, Albert "Ismaele" Sposito, Simon "SlayeR" Judd.
Most of the comments so far on Hellcore have been along the lines of "a mixed bag", and I can only agree with this. It is a seriously flawed creation, but also very interesting indeed in places. Themes vary, as you would expect in a multi-author megawad constructed over many years. Some of the maps are very impressive, but they sit alongside far more primitive ones, and some that just don't work at all as things stand. It would be best to view it as a collection of 32 maps, each to be considered on their own merits. And some of them have very considerable merits.
There is talk of a bug-fix re-release, and some of you might like to wait for that, or else to get involved in the testing, and help make the re-release as polished as possible. As it stands, the wad can't be played all the way through with the same port. Map32 is a Hexen-format Zdoom map (it's also unfinished, and has no exit, and can only be reached by warping to it; it also crashed Zdoom when I tried it, though I had got far enough through it by that point to see some very cool effects). Map05 fails in Zdoom, but most other ports handle it OK. However, ports other than Zdoom have problems with several of the other maps:
Doom2.exe: not a chance.
PrBoom (with Doom2.exe compatibility): map01 goes haywire while in the ship area (perhaps the same issue as in E1M2 of Simply Phobos, making it Zdoom-only); crash at start-up in map04 and map06; can't exit map07 because the arachnotrons don't teleport in.
Eternity: crash at start-up in map04 and map06; same map07 problem.
jDoom: same map01 problem as in PrBoom; crash at start-up in maps 04 and 06; same map07 problem; heavy crash at start-up (with desktop resized) in maps 05, 17, 19, 20 (locked up there too), 21, 25 and 29.
Legacy: odd messages in map04; crash in map05; strange stuff in map07, as you can avoid the revenants being released (there's something odd about the revenants in Zdoom too, since they seem to be frozen for a while).
Doom Builder's 3D camera object appears in map01 and map05, generating a (harmless) error message in some ports, and an (equally harmless) exclamation mark to appear in others. There are also some port-specific texturing oddities (e.g. something looks OK in Zdoom, but is a mess in Eternity).
In conclusion, there are so many bugs that you never know whether you are up against the intended challenge or just the by-product of an error.
It's about time I commented on the appearance and gameplay of the maps. A few random observations: Map01 is attractive design-wise, though a bit bare in places. It has a ship, a lighthouse and a harbour area - reminiscent of the classic map "Waterfront". Map02 is OK gameplay-wise, though a bit repetitive (cut+paste). Map03 is a dull map, especially to start with; the strobe light effects are unpleasant too. Map04 is an interesting map, with varied themes (but also a literally "not done" area). I liked the drinks machines. It looks like there would be a possible suicide exit trick, if any of the ports that supported that original game's behaviour would actually play this map. Map05 offers quite a challenge and features some good effects (e.g. a transforming room when you collect the red key). However, there is a random mix of styles and some errors. Map07 pits you against some swarms of monsters, and gives you little room to manoeuvre, but masses of ammo. Map16 has interesting design and good music, but is rather rough at the start. Map23's intricate and pleasing design reminded me somewhat of Half-Life. Map25 looked nice and was fun up to the point where there was a maze with a strobe light effect. To be honest, I just warped to the next map at that point. Life's too short... Maps 26 and 27 were both made early on in Fusion's mapping career, and it shows: they are simple and bland. Maps 28 and 29 are both truly hellish/satanic affairs, and should be fun to play. Map30 is just insane, but not difficult if you know where to go. There is no need to thread any rockets through a hole in the wall. It was made very quickly according to the textfile, and I can believe it.
Essentially, this is a potentially rather good megawad that is still somewhere before beta-testing stage. I hope that for the next release, the team concentrates on making sure it actually works rather than on revamping existing maps that do currently function.
- Lamentations by Derek "Afterglow" MacDonald
812kb - Boom + Doom2 + Darkening 2 textures - DM - 6 maps - (img) - (img)
A six-map deathmatch wad by Afterglow. You know the maps are going to look good, and sure enough there's excellent use of textures and plenty of attention given to lighting. Nothing looks out of place. The design is mostly very clean, and movement is free and easy. The maps vary in size: the first four are medium (or medium-large, with map03 definitely straying into "large by DM standards" territory), while the last two are relatively small. The combat mostly involves mid-range weapons; only one map contains a BFG. Boom features are used to provide jump pads (or a jump-pad effect - I presume it is a conveyor belt going up invisible steps) and to drag the player into teleporters. As the textfile admits, not all these features work terribly well, and I certainly found myself stuck inside a teleporter once or twice. DMers should definitely give this one a try though.
- Nothing Like UT2004 by MasterOFDeath
492b - Skulltag + Doom2 - multiplayer (CTF) - 1 map - (img)
This is a competently-made capture the flag map. The architecture is unelaborate but clean-looking, and the layout is logical. However, it is unlikely to make for very exciting games, since it is a long run between the two flag positions, and there isn't much variety route-wise, and some bottlenecks to get through.
- Zpong 2.0 by Isle
5kb - ZDoom 2.0.63a + Doom2 - mod - 1 map - (img)
The spate of Zdoom minigames continues. Not much to say really. It's Pong, and it's in Zdoom. Yay! If you don't know what Pong is, take a look at the screenshot, imagine it's 1975 and think how amazing it would have been to have that on your TV screen, and to be able to move the little lines by twiddling knobs on a great big hi-tech controller box thingy. Note that the default controls are Y and H, and you can customize them in the control menu. And skill levels are implemented, so if you go straight to UV and get slaughtered, don't be surprised. Skill 1 is pointless, but skill 2 is useful for getting a feel for how the computer's logic works, and what sort of things it has trouble coping with. I found myself working my way up through the skill levels faster than I expected. I'm sure it would be easy to waste quite a few hours with this.
- i|\|5@|\|i1y W3@p0|\|5! by MasterOFDeath
175kb - Zdoom - weapon replacement - no maps - (img)
Yay, it's yet another of those weapon replacements that everyone likes so much! Or at least you'd imagine they do, given how many of them are being released nowadays. MasterOFDeath offers us a bunch of k-rad weapons that he did not create himself. Well, apart from the chaingun replacement, which is a truly dreadful MS-Paint job. The others are gathered from a variety of sources, and lack any coherent theme. The most amusing is the demon launcher, which might give you a quick chuckle before you delete this wad from your hard disk.
- Enigma 13 by Lexus Alyus
1,001kb - Zdoom 2.0.63a + Doom2 - SP - 2 maps
An update/bugfix of a wad from last week.
- Titan by Jesper Krag Rasmussen (Ixnatifual)
4,571kb - Zdoom 2.0.63a + Doom2 - SP - 9 maps
Another update/bugfix of a wad from last week.
I didn't upload anything this week, but other people did - 43 maps in total, mostly deathmatch.
- "The Artifact" ARTIFACT.WAD Version 2.1 by Paul Schmitz
418kb - Doom.exe - SP - 3 maps - (img)
This is the Doom(1) version of Paul Schmitz's classic wad Artifact. The Doom2 version is probably the best-known rendition, and he also made a Boom version. Despite having fewer monsters in some areas than the Doom2 version, this three-map wad provides rather a stern challenge - indeed, in its day, its "unfairness" perhaps deprived it of some of the attention it deserved. The three maps follow on from one another - it was only due to the limitations of the Doom engine that it was split into three maps at all (kind of the Deus Vult of its time, heh). Those who insist on twiddly bits of detail packing every corner of a map would do best to steer clear of The Artifact, but otherwise it is well worth playing.
- Surge DM II (v2.1) by Various
2,110kb - Boom + Doom2 - DM - 32 maps - (img) - (img) - (img)
This is a deathmatch megawad that was missing from the archive. The release date is given as August 20th, 2000, but the wad file is dated September 25th, 2004 - it isn't made clear what changes, if any, have been made recently. The full list of creators is: Nick "NiGHTMARE" Baker, Daniel Baker, Paul "Moe" Fleschute, Yashar "Gemini" Garibzadeh, Derek "Afterglow" MacDonald, Michael "Cyb" Watson. Quite an array of talent, I'm sure you'll agree. The maps are of good quality, though often very simple and symmetrical (the build times are generally just a couple of hours - and I do wonder if some are just there to make the numbers up to a nice round 32). Most of the maps are small (sometimes basically just one room), with 2 the recommended number of players, and the pace of game described as "insane" or "fast" more often than not. Themes vary: some tech, not much gothic, and a couple of rather cute snow scenes.
- SacrificeDM by Derek "Afterglow" MacDonald
1,036kb - limit-extending port + Doom2 - DM - 6 maps - (img) - (img)
This 6-map wad is dated March 25, 2001. The maps are medium or large, with a high degree of complexity, and some rather attractive textures.
- Morbid DM 01 : Edgecrusher (v1.01) by Nick Baker, aka NiGHTMARE
454kb - Zdoom + Doom2 - DM - 1 map - (img)
A medium-sized DM map for Zdoom. Zdoom features aren't used in great abundance, and the map has an unfussy look to it.
- Morbid DM 02 : Flood Dead by Nick Baker (aka NiGHTMARE) and Derek MacDonald (aka Afterglow)
852kb - Zdoom + Doom2 - DM - 1 map - (img)
As the name suggests, there is a fair amount of swimmable water in this large and complex DM map, and you'll certainly need to get your feet wet to get the most out of it.