Spider Mastermind

Top Ten - Page 3

50 Shades of Graytall - Various

50 Shades of Graytall If the comparisons with E. L. James's erotic laughterstroke don't stop with the mapset selling more than one hundred million copies (don't bother checking that figure, I've already crunched the numbers), we can probably assume that 50 Shades of Graytall will find the majority of its player base giggling around water coolers and stuffed between kiosks at the train station, and that Salman Rushdie considers it to be the worst set of levels ever to grace Doom. What these suckers don't know, however, is that BDSM is an excellent limitation to impose on yourself if you want to expand into the realm of creative foreplay.* Sorry, Salman, I love your work, but The Satanic Verses doesn't cut the kinky mustard in quite the same way. Great megawad, though!

These Quality Jokes™ aside, it's not hard to figure out where 50 Shades makes an impression. There are many, many ways to make a level look great in Doom, and taking out all but three textures and two flats doesn't have to make everything look rubbish. Indeed, the compensatory gains are immense, here, and not just in areas like architecture, lighting, contrast and abstract imagery: There are levels whose ideas seem destined in a project like this, where the imagination runs necessarily at fever pitch and the industrious thrive. Take the hall of mirrors in Noisyvelvet's Count Trakula, for example. Surely this sort of technical miracle has been performed before, but what sort of avenues must be taken for the penny to drop on this kind of idea? Could dobu gabu maru's Astral Nausea, a level where the floor is embroidered into the sky and decorations are used to teleport between fractals, result from any old project lacking in such a simple and elegant restriction? Even if the idea of the project does not capture your fancy, it's difficult to argue against its ability to inspire a different approach to level design, and in a community that is dependent on change as a means to survive, this can only be respected.

For the Joe Bloggs Doomer who isn't interested in all that stuff and Just Wants to Kill, however... look out! 50 Shades doubles up as a bastard actioneer, and is packed to the rafters with names like Joshy, Ribbiks, and TimeofDeath: The Expendables of Doomworld. The gameplay takes a giant lurch forward at the halfway point to enter into this realm, and for a while you'll not be distracted by the giant swathes of fireblue as you focus on killing everything. So carefully arranged is the mapset by Marcaek, though, with 50 Shades taking pride in its more enigmatic outings; it saves the very best 'til last, so that by the end of the eighteen-map journey you are left exhausted and inspired in equal measure - a very cool concoction!

I cannot promise that you will enjoy playing 50 Shades of Graytall like I did. It is a modern product with an eye for the unusual and the adventurous, and people looking for a no-nonsense approach to their Doom may leave feeling violated and short-changed. But like with the crappy book that almost shares its name, don't tell me you didn't know what you were buying.


*Only partially joking, here: projects of this kind are a great way to bolster your creative resolve before committing to the real deal. Buck up!

Sheer Poison - zan-zan-zawa-veia (a.k.a. yakfak)

Sheer Poison Normalcy is not an item you'll find on the menu at yakfak's. No surprises there, then. If a person was made to listen to some of his wacky BRICKDAD tunes and then guess at the kinds of level he creates, I wouldn't bank on that person being too far off the mark. His brand is a throwback to some of the more enigmatic levels of the nineties, with the type of oddball, wayward thinking that is guaranteed to stir the proverbial, and an artistic approach that sees the engine being wielded as much to probe the human condition (or is that the Doomguy condition?) as it is to create a level of uncompromising depth and complexity. Certainly the wacko music and abstract aesthetic help us to focus in on this point. Of course, this combination of qualities is not so foreign to the Doom community when we consider its rich history (Jim Flynn being a chief proponent, or, for the more discerning connoisseur, the likes of TNT member David Armstrong and his Zombie Heart of Death), so what is it about Sheer Poison that makes it so notable in this camp? Well, not too much as it turns out... it's just a bloody fun brain-teaser; an epic adventure!

At the start of this treacherous FACT-FINDING MISSION the player is thrust into a barrel-garnished gizmo of flashing lights and hungry demons, and the immediate objective is as clear-cut as you could ever hope to see in a Doom level: establish a foothold, find some guns, and kill the demons. Enjoy this while it lasts, because it is a moment of clarity that you will not often find over the next hour. From here, the pathways open up to reveal a dubious mission statement and a very imposing set of challenges, always with the player having the option of opting out of the nightmare and failing the exam. It's not the sort of level that you're likely to finish in a single sitting unless you're an Eternal enthusiast or otherwise very observant, and this is definitely a good thing. It means that you're left to marinate in your own confusion, so that by the time you're clawed out of the oven by demons or somehow blunder your way to the exit switch you've been well and truly tenderized by the experience - a gobbling victim of a newfound favourite or a type of something you never, ever want to play again. In either case, it has the power to change minds, to flip your understanding of Doom on its head, and what could be more valuable than that?

Your guess as to what the real meaning behind this level is will be better than mine, but I like to think of it as an existential nightmare - an elaborate daydreaming beyond the walls of a forced experiment. Perhaps yakfak has really bad memories of one of his old school masters and made this as an escape mechanism. Perhaps it's all just a metaphorical scuff on the sidewalk of shits given. Whatever it is, it leaves a lasting impression - the good kind! - and I look forward to seeing how deep the rabbit hole goes.


dead.wire - Xaser

dead.wire At the beginning of the year, Tormentor667 played host to a competition called Doomjà-vu, in which participants were made to create unique levels based on the layout of E1M7: Computer Station. The winner of this competition was zrrion the insect (a name more familiar to those over at the ZDoom messaging boards) for his Mouldy Old Void, an antique marvel that is rich in atmosphere and detail, and truly worth its weight in votes - no question! Not being beholden to any contest or international law has its perks, though, and the Cacowards team had already sent out its drones to survey the Doomscape and report back any hidden gems. What they found was this map for ZDoom, later posted on Doomworld by its lonesome. The records will show that Xaser was on his lunch break at the time.

What is dead.wire? Is it any more dangerous than a live.wire? It's certainly more striking. Xaser appears to have taken more inspiration from M7's name than he has from its layout, creating a world that is alien to most of what we're familiar with in concept, if not theme: a series of torch-lit chambers, monuments, and computer terminals that join together to create a floating complex in the void... and all of it dominated by static. That's the kicker, there: analogue television-grade fuzz. Poltergeist in Doom. More than just a visual hook, this becomes a concept that dictates the gameplay from the get-go, with the monsters, layout, and setting all toying with the idea central to Spielberg's smash-hit horror, that the veil between the real world and the other one is thin and ephemeral, tenuous at best. The resulting experience is a spooktacular tip-toeing, occasionally frenetic romp through unfamiliar traps and evils, including partially invisible monsters like the hell knight and lost soul. At first it might seem too dangerous an idea for a player base that is, by now at least, used to the idea of being able to effortlessly interact with what's in the front of them (with GUNS!), and I confess that I was frustrated at first. It was a cool setup that I was unable to enjoy fully because of the strain placed simply on seeing what it was I was shooting at. This a front-loaded issue that quickly unwinds as you stock up one some of the level's most gratifying countermeasures, including a super-powered laser gun and a flamethrower, and once you adapt a different approach to the problem, like rushing headlong into danger before the shadows in the corners of the map can shut your cowardly backside down.

Xaser is a modest soul and not known to flaunt his wares that much. At others' behest he will go to great lengths, donating his uniquely innovative approach to projects for which he expects - and often gets - little credit. Other than pointing out this fact wherever possible, the next best thing we can do is stand guard and prevent any of his greatest feats from flying off undetected. Hence this little wonder, plucked from the void.


Return to Hadron - Matt "cannonball" Powell

Return to Hadron When I finished playing Hadron for the first time this year, I was on a high. It was in the small hours of the morning, so I had probably just eaten some kind of juice-fuelled breakfast of champions, complete with peppered eggs, bananas and coffee - I'm a morning kind of person. Maybe I was just in a good mood, and it was affecting my better judgement? Well, several months later I played it again, and this time was able to confirm that no, it really was the most fun I'd had playing Doom all year, and it was all because of cannonball's new identity as a level designer... one that he first showcased in last year's draft excluder. My God, it's like he knows my weakness, now. This could get scary.

It all starts with the player returning to a refurbished opening of ConC.E.R.Ned's first episode, Dead Colliding. This map is a formality and a non-event, but it reflects the crux of the project, at large: levels from the original that have had their layouts changed, their architecture emboldened, and their gameplay absolutely scrambled. It's an entirely different beast now, and from E1M3 onward you'll start to develop an understanding of the type of something that cannonball is aiming for, and what it is that he gets so damned right.

This is complete purity of form. Athletic Doom; sexy Doom... a genetically engineered masterpiece of an episode. I have played levels that possess this style before, but never ones with such an evident conviction in that style playing out behind the scenes. The layouts are open, sprawling and complex, and the countless monsters that roam into them come from all angles to harangue you while you dance from wall to wall in search of much-needed health and ammunition, or part the waves like Moses to create infighting opportunities. It is movement as both defence and offence at its highest peak, and there is scarcely a map where you're not made to use all of your skills to overcome the crowd. This isn't to say that it's extremely difficult, rather that you're getting a really good workout and having loads of fun while you're at it. As an added bonus, the levels also look the part: cannonball has always had an eye for large, domineering architecture, and the colour scheme and improved geometry here really add depth to the visuals.

It would be wrong to try and pigeonhole this kind of style when we're so overly reliant on such a small breadth of terminology in the community. It has legions of monsters but it's not a slaughter; it has many corridors in the tech style but it's not a base-crawler. What it is is a style that cannonball is moving toward calling his own, and at the risk of polluting my credentials as an unbiased reviewer any further, I'll go on the record in saying that it's the best thing released this year.

Right, I'm off to finish my massive lunch. Cheers!


2015 Cacowards

Espi Award for Lifetime Achievement

Top Ten - Page 1

  • Sunlust
  • Erkattäññe
  • Skulldash

Top Ten - Page 2

  • Swift Death
  • Breach
  • Valiant

Top Ten - Page 3

  • 50 Shades of Graytall
  • Sheer Poison
  • dead.wire
  • Return to Hadron

Multiplayer Awards

  • Don't Be A Bitch Remastered
  • ChaosCore CTF

Other Awards

  • Best Gameplay Mod
  • Mordeth Award
  • Mockaward
  • Mapper of the Year



Ol' No Name

Ol' No Name

Here we have a small and tricksy set of levels by newcomer Octavarium, whose previous major outing included Two Big, Stupid Maps. Already a proven charmer of detail, Doc Ock takes it one further in employing textures and ideas from The Darkening Episode 2 to create a gritty, hard-boiled adventure that will see you spending most of your time making friends with the floor, if not peeping around corners and clutching at the F6 button like Linus van Pelt (I swear I've made that joke before...). But it's fun, make no mistake! Save for when the awesome detailing snags you by the short and curlies, much enjoyment comes from enduring the unrelenting, close-quarter carnage, and in navigating the sprawling layouts. Check your blood pressure and posture, and get ready for a beatdown - this one's a doozy!

Yeoman Engineers and Designers of Software


Christmas is around the corner and as of this writing, 32in24-15 is missing in action. Don't panic! The fourteenth iteration of this community favourite is a mission in mistletoe and hamburgers (when is it not about hamburgers?), and invited the Yeoman Engineers to stitch together any combination of 32in24 areas previously released to create a single-player yuletide experience. It should go without saying - and to some without playing, even - that this is a surefire winner, and yet the biggest dent in its being granted an award this year was struck with how few of the contributors decided to pursue this interesting idea with gusto. Don't be too disheartened, though; the results are mostly marvellous, and sprinkled with lots of Christmas cheer - usually! Standout levels include those by skillsaw, esselfortium (pictured), Mechadon, Xaser and TheMionicDonut. The Usual Yeoman Suspects.


There seems to be no shortage of enthusiasm from the modding community when it comes to this wonderful game. Whenever Doomers retire, new guys come in with fresh ideas and add to our rich tapestry. Well, it's more like a massive storage facility à la Raiders of the Lost Ark full of tapestries, but you get the idea.

Urthar's Way Too Many Dead Guys combines geometric architecture, Imperial scale, and vanilla textures to give us a gorgeous adventure through another UAC compound, but the image is entirely his own. Octavarium provided the cheekily titled Ol' No Name, resurrecting the Darkening E2 theme for an exercise in sadism adorned with some of the finest architecture and detailing I've ever seen, feeling more like the work of an environment designer than your usual hobbyist. Then, of course, rdwpa, whose recent glut of speedmaps has captured the hearts and minds of the Doom gods themselves. Less prominent but not forgotten, there's gaspe, a community contributor who's still hacking away at his first big release, Legacy of Heroes. I'd also like to give a shout out to AD_79, who kicked out the rough and tumble 50 Monsters megawad along with Breezeep, only to have AD_79 turn around and release his four-level minisode, Violence, right after.

Though they may be ranked as the MOST promising newcomers, EVERY newcomer is promising in the eyes of the archives. Try it! You might like it.

Donut Dekker and the Twitchilites

When I get up in the morning I don't slave for streams, sir... but one big corner of the community does! These guys are the delivery men of the Doomdom, toiling away so that the malnourished backwaters of the Internet are delivered a healthy new Dooming experience every week, without fail. It's a thankless task that pulls new people into the community faster than anything or anyone else in town, and the Cacowards team would like to thank you all for your commitment each year.

An extra large shoutout goes to The Mionic Donut, who pulled a 24 hour stint this November to raise an impressive sum for children in need.

Click here for a conclusive list of Doom's most prominent Twitchilites, courtesy of Dime.


It's no secret that Doom has long been used as a stepping stone for aspiring engineers to figure out the limitations and qualifications of a project. To this day, Doom remains a fantastic tool to learn about things with. Still, some people tend to go way overboard and port Doom to things nobody would have expected.

It Runs Doom! is a little tumblr chronicling exactly that, posting about the different bits and pieces of hardware our favorite murder simulator has been ported to, oftentimes along with little snippets of history or commentary. Enlightening for our more tech-minded friends! Still pretty fun even for people who don't know what APU stands for.