I return to Doom mapping with ten years of game development experience and some million-selling titles under my belt. Reading the belated 2012 Cacowards got me thinking - wouldn't it be cool to pick up the editor and do something for Doom's 20th birthday? I released Doom: The Arcade Game for Doom's 8th and managed to win a not-yet-called-a-Cacoward for Doom's 10th. Over the years, requests have been made for a sequel to Space Station Omega. Alas, I hung up the mapping hat in 2004. But why return now? Nostalgia mainly. Doom was a very important game in my development, and I want to give something back to it for the big 20.
So. Prime Directive. It is episode five of The Gateway Experiments. What happened to episodes two, three, and four? Well, I'm doing a George Lucas and skipping a few. And to complete that allegory, I've also gone back and revised Space Station Omega. Not too much, mind you - it's mainly so that decisions you make there have an impact on Prime Directive. Although, perhaps most controversially, Elaine is now represented by a female marine sprite set. I KNOW, RIGHT?
Episode five has the following features planned:
A far better story than episode one
Fully voiced dialogue
A campaign that spawns at least five maps
Actual Half-Life style level transitions (these are already in and working)
A complete day/night cycle (also in and working)
A somewhat restrained usage of DECORATE - this is still Doom at its core
Far better ACS than the rubbish I wrote ten years ago
The plan is to have it released by November the 10th. Iím basically aiming for it to be in time for the Cacowards, but itíll be up to you guys to tell me if itís worthy of nomination. I know Space Station Omega is well regarded, but being away from Doom editing for so long tells me that I have to prove myself all over again to the community.
The gameplay in Prime Directive will be more influenced by Metroid Prime and Dark Souls than Call of Linearity: Rail Ops. The conversation stuff Iím planning will be a rather cut-back test implementation of some ideas Iíve had for quite some time now. And if you thought the story in Space Station Omega was a high point of the WAD, this story will knock your socks clean off.
That was a bug that I thought was fixed. You can fix it temporarily by going to the console and typing bind g ge_activateradio. I'll upload a new version when I'm not about to go to bed (ie now).
Although, while I'm here, I'll post a bit of a development diary entry I wrote earlier:
Being a sequel to Space Station Omega, there's three design principles that I need to stick by:
It needs to feel like Doom
It must have a strong intrinsic story
It must have user choice
The first point - it needs to feel like Doom - is something I'm trying to stick to, but the nature of the story in this one means that there's a lot of stuff you just can't find in Doom in here. The first part being that you're invading a marine base. Using marines as enemies has long been seen as something you shouldn't really do in Doom. Especially if you use the stock ZDoom marines. Their code is freaking brutal. It's not fun to play against them. Rather than just sticking with those marines though, I've gone in and altered every single marine's DECORATE entry. In many cases, I am not using the A_M_* functions. A lot of my playtesting (and the testing I'm asking volunteers to do) is going in to creating balanced marine fights. I'm also chosing to not play fair in some cases. Just like in deathmatch, if you meet someone with a SSG you're in for a world of pain. So I put SSG marines in select locations. It's all designed to keep you on your toes and not feel entirely safe when you charge in to a group of marines.
The second point - it must have a strong intrinsic story - is coming along excellently. I've learnt a lot about storytelling over the last ten years. Taking my original outline for The Gateway Experiments, I've skipped a few chapters and am working on the one that I was looking forward to working on the most. A few things have happened in the interim - most significantly for the characters, Russell and Elaine's ship was boarded as they made their escape from Space Station Omega and Elaine was captured. The driving force for Russell's motivation in the latter half of episode 2 and in episodes 3 and 4 was to rescue Elaine. That was a success. Elaine didn't come out unscathed though, as the interrogation/torture she went through has left her with Post Traumatic Stress. Elaine needs Russell as a means of holding on to normality, and despite the fact that she killed her interrogator she still doesn't have the closure she needs on the Gateway Experiments. But, as always, player choice is a large part of how she deals with it.
And that ties in to the last point. In the early stages of Prime Directive, the only real choice you have is how to deal with Elaine. Through necessity (and as a result of atmosphere/tension building), the first section of the base assault is a bit of a linear trek through the base. You're constantly on the back foot, and you have no choice but to push in a safer direction than the way you'd rather go. But then there's a point where that all changes, and you start to get the upper hand. And that's where the SSO choice comes back to the forefront. Once you realistically have a choice, that's when I'm letting the player have one.
The current development choices I'm facing though is how to keep a non-linear Metroid/Dark Souls approach to the larger part of the campaign without spiralling the map design out of control. There's story beats I need to hit, there's choices I need to leave the player, and there's the fact that I don't want to spend all my spare time up till November getting this WAD in order. Hitting that initial flow up to the yellow keycard was easy. The rest of it is not as easy. But it is a great design challenge.