|I've Been Playing My Old Maps...||February 20, 2014, 4:44 pm|
... And I've realised that, basically, they're unplayable shit. I like them because I know them and have a full understanding of what was going through my mind when I made them, but there is no reason why anybody else should play them.
This is specifically for Scourge and Warpzone. As I've never really thought this stuff through before, I figured I'd indulge in a post-mortem. As I can't imagine my rambling tl;dr (and it definitely will be both of those things) will interest anybody other than me, I've opted to stick it here in blogs rather than put it in the main forum. Here goes...
My main observation was that, in my ignorant naivety of the wider Doom community and it's products, 10-15 y/o me was basically reinventing the mid '90s, right down to big chunky sector furniture, nonsensical, opaque progression and rampant but entirely impotent imagination. Chuck in my fascination with the "newly discovered" jumping ZDoom 1.22b offered when I found it in a rare foray online and you've got a very uneven, mostly poor playing experience. I like that I had the ideas and was so keen to chuck them all into DEU 2 (and later Doom Builder, at MAP18 of Scourge and onwards), but I definitely needed more experience.
Likewise, I like that I put new artwork in them. Yes, the INTERPIC for Scourge is hilariously bad, but the TITLEPIC for both projects is serviceable, in an MSPaint-y kind of way (I'm pretty proud of the meteor strike on the Scourge TITLEPIC, even if the base and cliff are piss-poor). The Armoured Baron from MAP31 of Scourge is a pretty minor edit and I only fucked up the face on the A1 sprite (since rectified in other distributions of the monsters) whilst the Ignis Locus in Warpzone is pretty original, even if the from-scratch sprites are pretty poor.
Special touches like the MAPINFO and scripted "credits" map in Scourge, plus the invisible pickup that snatches all of your cells (and some) in Warpzone also things I'm glad I did. The absence of music in Scourge was relatively wise, as putting on your own in the background works... I rather misused Tom_D's cool metal track in Warpzone though, as it definitely isn't intended to be heard on loop for over an hour straight...
Anyway, on to the bulk of the offering - the maps!
Scourge basically splits into 5 chunks, so I'll analyse those:
MAP01-MAP06 - I think I'd just finished learning all the technical stuff from Hank Leukart's Hacker's Guide to Doom and wanted to make a series of levels. Each map leads on from the last to an extent, aside from the transition from MAP05-MAP06. The "story" is goofy, but did allow me to frequently change setting (something I do still to this day). I'd say these maps show a lot of beginner-isms, what with the inescapable damaging pits, very "broad-strokes" visuals that just about do the job and simple play and progression. Overstocking is a major problem, as is the start of MAP04 with it's convoluted spiral-descent thing where you have to start again at the top (and press the switch twice) every time you fall over the side, all with a load of crushers on the stairs and some very damaging lava at the bottom.
Highlights here include a giant, surprisingly lethal horde of zombiemen in MAP06 that is a lot of fun to chaingun; and MAP05 is kind of fun, even though it mostly looks like arse (I kind of like the outdoors bit). Lowlights are basically all of MAP04 and things like difficult-to-hit Revenants in MAP02 and inescapable pits in MAP01.
MAP07-MAP14 - Very conceptual here, but with a greater overall competence. This section is where I started bouncing off of the limits of DEU 2 and really experimenting. This means MAP07 has a poisonous atmosphere in all caves and the starting room, MAP08 is all about pushing through foliage in an outside area, MAP09 is mostly dark and centred around a pit, MAP10 has you approaching the least well-realised castle in the history of Doom, MAP11 sports a bullshit Indiana Jones jumping sequence (followed by crushers), MAP12 features a dichotomous secret, MAP13 is all about the build-up to the second cyberdemon encounter of the map and MAP14 has a very dark building that can be lit in a couple of ways (all in aid of raising a really big bridge to access a flood of Demons).
The problem here is that a lot of these creative ideas (and others not mentioned) aren't executed particularly well, will probably be frustrating and are in very 90's maps that have lots of square rooms, symmetry and thin corridors. On the flip side, texturing is surprisingly consistent for me through this bit and the fights don't tend to be too bad (then again, it is Doom still). Secrets are fairly varied here, but usually just leave the player with stacks of health, armour and ammo, or supply things that aren't particularly useful (like a chaingun just before a Spider Mastermind fight, in MAP08).
I'd say the gunplay in certain parts of each map here is probably the highlight, whilst the lowlights really stand out, like the nonsensical way you get into the main part of MAP12, the afore-mentioned jumping sequence in MAP11 (and stuff like the blue skull needing to be jumped at). This'd probably be a fair source of ideas to reuse if I were to do another "Coils of the Twisted Tale"-style project (which used a checklist of ideas from my Old Map Compilation) but is probably the most likely part of the map set to stop the average player in their tracks.
MAP15-MAP17 - Here I'm aware of the limits and am consciously working within them to produce better quality stuff. However, I'm also joining sectors on either side of doors, still putting in plus-size sector furniture and, particularly in MAP15, having a lot of square rooms linked by narrow corridors. I'm pretty proud of the puzzles MAP15 and MAP17 have (for the secret exit and to cross the nukage respectively), although MAP17's one is pretty damn opaque. MAP16 probably plays the best out of these three, with Doom E2-style monster usage (with chaingunners and Hellknights) through most of the map and a reasonable teleporting horde at the end of the main tunnel. However, MAP16 and, to a much worse extent, MAP17, misuse barrels and do have a couple of rooms just stuffed full of enemies that are only really going to kill each other. I was definitely picking up some stuff from Evilution here, but not much of it good, IMO.
Aside from the visuals, which largely need work, I'd consider this a reasonable baseline for quality if I were to do a simple one-man-megaWAD again in the future.
MAP18-MAP21 - Having discovered Doom Builder and the practically unlimited editing ability that it and ZDoom 2.0.63a seemed to offer me, I immediately set about making larger maps. Theming here is all over the place, but with more architectural complexity than before, so the overall aesthetic was improved, I'd say. MAP18 makes use of secret tunnels and ways around monsters, which was a fairly interesting experiment, although it also is a fairly square sprawl of a techbase (more TNT influence, I'd suspect). MAP19 is remarkably big and goes from a reasonably clean techbase layout filled with ideas to a large Hell section that progresses through a few themes, whilst MAP20 is full-on progression through Hell (pretty much a continuation of MAP19) and MAP21 is sort-of an Icon of Sin battle, but really just a switch hunt with an Icon spewing twin sets of spawn cubes out in the background. I'm pretty proud of these maps, even though they do have some odd scaling issues and still have a few naff ideas.
Highlights are the final battle on MAP20 (a slaughter that is built up to in a revisited area) and the reasonable visuals for MAP21, I think. Lowlights would be the "turn on the lights" room in MAP20 (the damaging flickering light sector on the switch that you go there for isn't great, either) and the stupid maze in MAP18... A lot of the conceptual stuff in MAP19's techbase section definitely isn't worth having, too.
MAP31 - hyper-detailed (by my standards) but plays like crap, with lots of little bits to snag on, mostly cramped rooms and very dense monster placement. The final switch puzzle is pretty sadistic too. I suppose the odd room probably looks good, rather than cluttered, and the Armoured Barons at least make it interesting, but I'd probably say this is better off skipped.
In summary, Scourge is a lot of ideas (some good, some not) and mostly poor execution. The mostly bite-sized maps and pretty easily overcome resistance would probably be good were it not for all of the other obstacles to progress.
Warpzone was originally made as Scourge MAP31 (my "bigger is better" obsession in DB had really gotten out of hand here) but was replaced with a new crappy map focused around teleporting so that this could be polished up and improved a bit from what it was (yep, this map used to be [I]worse[/I] than it is now!). I'd say the major flaw with this map is that it was built entirely for looks and then I tried to shoehorn game play in afterwards. Some bits didn't suffer too badly (although are largely too densely populated for the weapon availability) whilst others, particularly the monorail station bit near the end, flow like treacle as a result.
Again, some bits look good, others have chunky sector furniture and other bits are just cluttered to all hell - for example the bit you access through the red key switches is barely navigable. Speaking of navigation, the central hub is kind of helpful, although it is remarkably easy to miss some of the triggers that move the "objective markers" up and down and it is very easy to get all the way through hell only to find the final bit is locked off because you didn't do the entire southern techbase first... Which means you've got to do that damn jumping bit again. However, if you want a rocket launcher you're going to hell and trying not to blow yourself up on the ambush that triggers.
We've got enemies rising out of solid floors, big areas packed with enemies, small areas stuffed with enemies, tiny little corridors that are constant streams of light resistance, a cyberdemon you'll probably be taking down with the chaingun and single-barrelled shotgun, a Spider Mastermind that will probably do nothing useful, if it even teleports in at all and shed-loads of enemies hidden away in little nooks and crannies. This one mixes style-over-substance with a very 90's mentality WRT progression and some inadvisable stinginess with weaponry.
So what can I take away from all this? Well, basically that my two most-ambitious-projects-ever were undertaken way too early and really suck as a result. I know I can do ideas and I know I'm both technically capable and a lot more experienced with producing game play these days, so maybe I owe it to myself to get a new 20+ map episode out into the world and perhaps a megamap or two (the Escalation series will cover the latter). Maybe I should go limit removing with said megaWAD to make it less prone to wild ideas and an extended development cycle...
Well, if anybody made it through all of this, well done, I guess! Thanks for taking the time to hear an old hand ramble on about what forms his experience today. Maybe we'll see a Phobus megaWAD worth downloading some day.
|Office Jobs||September 20, 2013, 9:11 am|
I don't blog often. When I do it's usually negative (although I'd like to think it's not quite the pages of unjustifiable/teenaged angst some blogs are) and this one is no exception :D
I've got an office job. Specifically I'm a Management Information Analyst/Developer (see, it doesn't even sound interesting). I've been here for about 5 months and, before I got made redundant at the start of April, I had an MI Analyst role at a different company for about 15 months before this one. It is mind-numbingly boring. So boring I'm in fact blogging about it just to relieve the boredom for a couple of minutes. So boring, in fact, that I've muddled through some of the hideous crap other people have blogged in the last 2-3 pages, despite being painfully disinterested in what they had to say and actually kind of angry/despairing by turns.
I'd do something about it if I hadn't just gotten the job this year. In fact, when my contractual obligations dry up (I believe my rather nice studio flat in central Liverpool is anchoring me in place until mid-2014) I intend to get back on the job market and find a job I don't hate. For balance, I like living in Liverpool and being near to my mates in the North West is fantastic, so compared to my previous job (where I lived in a retirement village in the arse-end of nowhere, just outside Cambridge) this is definitely an improvement in overall life. The money is also pretty awesome, given I'm 23, although I think I may actually be slightly poorer in terms of disposable income due to renting a flat rather than sub-letting (like I was in my last job), or mooching off my dad, which I'm loathe to do as he's definitely supported me enough by now!
So, who else doesn't like their job? What, if given to idle fantasy, would you rather be doing? Personally, I think I just strongly dislike all work, but I kind of want to do something physical... I keep thinking Army, much as my mum would rather I didn't. If I had one of those lottery wins (which would be a shock, given I buy no tickets!) I'd definitely never work another day in my life and embark on a wonderful adventure around the world that would probably end very ignobly.
|It's Been A While...||May 5, 2013, 8:39 am|
2013 has been an odd year for me. I've barely touched Doom at all (2012 wasn't dissimilar on that front, to be honest), but far more importantly I've been made redundant and found a new job. I've not had an official contract saying a definite start date just yet, but it's looking to be Monday 13th. I'll be working for Yodel up in Liverpool doing loads of stuff with OBIEE and their legacy systems. It's about 5 grand more than the previous job earned me and, thanks to how my redundancy pay worked out, I've basically earned an extra month's salary this year overall, with an extra 1.5 months of holiday too. Not a bad deal, all told :P
As for the stuff you are presumably more interested in... I don't think I have the drive for Doom mapping any more. I've got loads of WIP maps in various states of completion, for ZDoom and limit-removing projets (mostly my own, but a few community efforts too) with a lot of cancellations over the last year or two, but essentially no enthusiasm for any of them. Just now I opened a map to do a proof-of-concept for my MAYhem 2013 idea and almost instantly realised that I knew it would work and can't be bothered to see it through.
The idea was that, now my life is seeing some stability and certainty once more I'd be able to pick up some hobbies again. You know, play games more (which I've certainly been doing), read some books, keep up with some of my favourite shows, get back to the gym (I'll want to move to Liverpool first for this one) and find a creative outlet. It appears Doom is unlikely to be that creative outlet.
I think I need a new challenge. Turns out that, after 80 maps or so over 10 years, it just doesn't seem to be as exciting as it was, even with all of the stuff ZDoom has to offer or the limitations to push in Boom, limit-removing or vanilla projects.
Maybe I've got some more maps in me, maybe not. I'm just really not feeling it and figured you guys might be the ones to discuss with.
|The Positive Spin on This is That it's a Motivational Kick...||January 9, 2013, 5:58 pm|
... to go and get a more interesting job (and indeed, life) than my current (rather boring, although comfortable) one.
The more negative is that I'll be made redundant in the near future (I'm one of the 67 in Cambridge). We were told to keep this quiet, but as it's on the news (I've had people outside the company telling me they know why I'm suddenly job hunting) I figured I might as well mention it here too.
You may find I get a bit intermittent over the next couple of months, as I'll be dedicating a lot of my free time to making sure I have somewhere to go when free time would otherwise not be an issue :P The good news is that I'm already getting leads and seem to know a lot of people who know people/companies/places that I could/should go, so optimism is my current note.
tl;dr: Dat economy...
|As we're all at it...||November 11, 2012, 3:53 am|
I'm going to be 23 on the 15th! So young, but it feels so old...
Figured I'd get it up a few days early as I had a birthday meal with some family members yesterday evening and it gives people more time if they feel I deserve a birthday map this year ;)
|Well, that's me unhappy...||September 20, 2011, 11:08 am|
I'm not sure how well known this is, but 4 months ago my girlfriend (of 7 months) left the country to go back home to the United Arab Emirates. As she was just here for one year to do a third year of her degree, that makes perfect sense. Now, because we'd gone and gotten really attached we didn't break it off. We were both upset enough at the airport as it was afterall.
We'd worked out a few plans to go and see eachother. Her plan of coming back to do a Master's after earning money for a year has fallen through as she's now serving as her parents' retirement fund along with her sister (apparantly that's how things are done in Indian families). My main hope was to get a Scholarship to the University of Bolton's Ras-Al Khaimah Campus, where I'd spend a year within 80 miles of where she lives in Sharjah.
Just found out today, after what amounts to around 3 whole months of waiting, that I came a close second. I don't think I can accurately decribe how this has made me feel at the moment.
All that time spent staying in touch, all the hard work I've put in and now I've been told I'm just not quite good enough to get a second year with her. Yeah there's a load of other shit to do with the actual scholarship, but the thing is I was almost the ideal candidate for that. Al-fucking-most.
Guess I'll save up for a holiday and get a last week or two with her so we can give up on good terms.
|One of my First Major Steps into Video Game Production - Update!||April 25, 2011, 1:49 am|
I'm in my final year of a course entitled "Computer Games Software Development" at the University of Bolton. I've got about 4 weeks left to get a game in, and naturally, I've been making a simple FPS. It's got to be in full 3D, got to use a shader and some middleware other than the rendering one. There's obviously a few other points on the project specification, and I'm working to fulfill most of them. My portfolio has a selection of my best work from prior years, and I'm hoping to emulate the relative success I had with Assignment 2: The Game, and then go way above and beyond.
The linked video shows where I am so far. Information on what is going on and what I'm still planning to do are in the description for the video.
Whilst this is still very in-development, and quite primitive too, it's a healthy dose of progress for me, so I thought I'd show it off. Models and materials are all stock OGRE stuff ATM. I canned the use of PhysX a month or two ago as it was causing a lot of headaches. The game uses a combination of new code and rewritten code from A2:TG. Once I've got a GUI in, I'll only need to make a couple of more complex levels to already have a better game (from a technical stand-point) than A2:TG, which is all quite exciting for me!
Anyway, enjoy :)