The Top 100 WADs Of All Time: 1994

1994 was the time when Doom WAD making got its start. Soon after Doom's release, amateur hackers worldwide got to work reverse engineering the WAD format, learning how to compile BSP data, and coding the earliest level editors like DEU. Many of the WADs released this year show authors still getting comfortable with the engine, learning how to make a 3D level. October 1994 also brought the release of Doom 2, meaning that this is the only year where the majority of WADs are for the original Doom.

Crossing Acheron - John "Dr. Sleep" Anderson

Crossing Acheron is an old friggin level. However, even with its near ten year age, it still holds up as a pretty nice level. While it's pretty underdetailed by today's standards, it's still got its fair share of charm and the gameplay is also quite nice. Dr. Sleep's mapping fame did not end here of course, as one of his maps appears in Ultimate Doom as E4M7. So Crossing Acheron is a good place to see where he got his starts (though he has maps older than this). At any rate, Acheron is an excellent old school map, and if you were around in 94 then you probably had this on your hard drive. (Cyb)

Aliens-TC 1 2 3 - Justin Fisher

Aliens-TC was one of the few "givens" on this list. Released in October 1994, this first-ever total conversion was so highly anticipated that after its release, newsgroups were buzzing with Doomers chatting about the TC rather than Doom 2, which was released a few days later. It was so famous that it singlehandedly got Justin several job offers to make games for a living. How does it hold up today? It's decidedly mixed. The thing is over nine years old and it shows -- textures are misaligned, rooms are bare, graphics are a little shoddy. But it still has moments, when the aliens are closing in and there is no way out, that the WAD is still genuinely frightening. (Ling)

UAC_DEAD - Leo Martin Lim

Doomsday of UAC is "legendary" in the truest sense of the word. Nowadays it mostly looks like crap since it was one of the earliest WADs released. Back In The Day, however, this was one the most famous PWADs around for its early use of "realistic" environments, its special effects including the then-new "crystal sector" effect showcased in the invisible staircase, and the bizarre baron/cyberdemon fight. If you downloaded any levels in 1994, I can almost guarantee this was one of them. (Ling)

Galaxia - Pavel Hodek

Galaxia was one of the first levels ever to have a quasi-requisite storyline - the ZIP comes with a text file outlining the events leading up to the beginning of the level, where you will find yourself against some... rather uneven odds. From the classic opening room the level spills out into rail stations, sewers, warehouses, and many more environments. One of the most memorable parts of the level comes in the form of a hallway with some rather odd wall decorations which ought to be seen for yourself. While this WAD again is pretty wide-open and plain by today's standards, it is noteworthy for its use of theme and storyline to produce a coherent experience; one of the first Doom WADs to do so. (Ling)

Serenity - Bjorn Hermans and Holger Nathrath

There are a lot of Doom episode replacements in the 1994 list, and for good reason -- at this early time, everyone was bursting at the seams with ideas and Doom's episodic format made it possible to create a not-unreasonable 8 levels to cram in as much stuff as you could. Serenity is another of these WADs, although better than most. One of the "hooks" of the episode, and one that many people remember, is how each incorporates a letter from the title" E3M1 has a big S, E3M2 a big E, and so on. Much of the architecture here is pretty blah by today's standards but come on, it was 1994. Have some cheese with your whine. (Ling)

Eternity (Serenity 2) - Bjorn Hermans and Holger Nathrath

The second episode by the Serenity team, superior to the original in every way. The levels are much more refined and interesting, with better looks and better gameplay, as the authors honed their talents. Again, each level incorporates one letter of the episode's title, and again, the levels display a wide range of styles and themes. Another accomplishment is an early example of attempting to fake light and shadow through sector-based lighting, although done fairly sparsely. What more is there to say, really? Another good example of early Doom level making. (Ling)

Trinity College - Steve McCrea, Simon Wall, & Elias Papavassilopoulos

The Unholy Trinity is notable for one major thing: it's the first WAD ever that tries to approximate a real place, and it does so through the use of lots and lots of custom textures. One of the authors took a camera and went around Trinity College in Cambridge, snapping photos of various buildings and facades. He then translated them into Doom textures and created a level which, at the time, surprised many with its "photorealistic" appearance. Another noteworthy addition was a short "movie" playing in the level's movie theater, created through creative use of the game's animated textures. (Ling)

Return to Phobos - Michael Kelsey

Return to Phobos is one of many episode replacements created for Doom in its early days. Like many, it emulates the E1 architectural style, and as with many early WADs, it is relatively light on the monster load and sparsely detailed. However, unlike many of the early episode replacements, Return to Phobos has a fantastic artistic sensibility. Michael Kelsey uses the stock textures in a way that few people nowadays are able to duplicate. The levels themselves are simple yet feel superbly complex, and due to the abundance of switches you find along the way, you always feel as if you're accomplishing something. (Ling)

Slaughter Until Death - TiC

The Innocent Crew was one of the great early WADmaking teams, creating some of the very first episode replacements. Slaughter Until Death was their first release. At the time it was notable for its difficulty -- compared to the stock Doom levels, Slaughter Until Death was one hell of a challange. It also had some interesting architecture and fights. It was originally intended to be the first half of a two-episode set, but it was released separately, and the sequel, The Evil Unleashed, would have to wait a few months. Nowadays it doesn't hold up as well but it's still worth a look. (Ling)

The Evil Unleashed - TiC

The Evil Unleashed is the sequel to the aforementioned Slaughter Until Death. As a levelset, it shows marked improvement over the first -- the levels are better laid out, with fewer annoyingly tight passages and better architecture. It's just as hard as Slaughter Until Death, perhaps harder. And it also has a few custom graphics, including wall textures and even a kicking boot to replace the Doomguy's fist. Overall it's much more consistent than Slaughter Until Death, and it also contains seeds for TiC's next project, Obituary. (Ling)