Espi Award for Lifetime Achievement
Doug "Opulent" Merrill and Andy Olivera
Two years ago Ty Halderman was awarded in a large part for his silent, faithful service to the community as the maintainer of the /idgames archive. This year we'd like to recognize the merits of two men behind an archive of a different sort, the DooMed Speed Demos Archive.
Speedrunning has always been an integral part of Doom's lasting appeal, and on the other hand Doom itself helped immensely to popularize the concept of beating games fast. But this is not a story of the first chaotic days of glory and its pioneers both celebrated and forgotten; it's about where all the demo recordings ended up eventually. Over the years the archive has become the undisputed backbone of the speedrunning community, and thus this year's Espi Award for Lifetime Achievement goes to DSDA's founder, Doug "Opulent" Merrill, and his successor and the current manager, Andy Olivera.
Doug "Opulent" Merrill
By his own words, Opulent used to be one of the biggest FPS demo freaks in the world. The /idgames archive reveals a fair amount of mostly deathmatch-oriented contributions under his name, but it was his passion for collecting demo recordings of various FPS games that drove him, with Doom and Quake II at the top of his interests. As the story goes, the clones fell into obscurity and Doom only became stronger over time, and Doug decided to help with that. In the early days of Doomworld he would often enthusiastically talk up demos he'd watched and praise the skill of the players involved, and he'd urge others to share their own recordings.
On September 9, 2000, Opulent got access to his own FTP folder on Doomworld, and thus the SDA was born. This was an age when everyone and their grandma still ran a "Doom shrine" on their Geocities page, including a set of demos of themselves beating their MYHOUSE.WAD map, and maybe some IWAD levels as well. It was also a time when Compet-N was in full swing and legendary Doomgods kept outperforming each other with stunning runs on the select few competitive mapsets. Opulent threw a different pitch that's best summed up by himself:
"Again, I encourage anyone to submit a demo. [snip] It can be of you on your level on skill 2 using Jdoom. I do have preferences (see info page), but overall anything goes."
Where most went for elitism and bragging, Opulent encouraged sharing any humble performance, as long as it is interesting to someone. He also strongly encouraged demoing on the multitude of PWADs out there, and he led the effort by recording for the legion of newly released wads of the early naughties. To this day he shared over 900 demos spanning 94 hours of gameplay, a feat that easily qualifies him for the top 10 players of all times in both regards.
Then the random enthusiasts of the Wide Web slowly faded away and their little fansites with them. Of that list, only sites hosted by Doomworld, BahdKo's doom2.net or Ledmeister still exist, but even those eventually became dormant mementos of the glory days. In stark contrast, Opulent kept promoting speedrunning on Doomworld, and in September 2003 he and Graham "Grazza" Burgess became the moderators of the newly opened Doom Speed Demos forum section. Originally he intended to keep the demos posted there separate from the DSDA site, but when the forum attachment feature stopped working reliably by the end of the year, Doug started manually uploading all demos linked in the forum or sent to him by other means to the FTP and reposting the links. This insane and no doubt exhausting mission lasted for four years, and needless to say Opulent's post count exploded as PWAD recording became increasingly popular.
All things come to an end eventually and during 2006, after getting dogged by lack of free time and hardships of personal life, he expressed his desire to pass the torch. It took two more years before a successor finally cropped up and Doug could silently vanish into the shadows. He still visits on occasion, and perhaps one day he'll decide to share with us his fabled treasure trove of thousands of privately collected demos.
On November 14th, 2008, Andy Olivera posted a thread announcing the DSDA was newly reopened (for two days already). He migrated the site to its current location, improved the frankly historical web design of the SDA, and most importantly added a database backend. Everything was modernized, categorized, and tabulated.
Of course Andy was no newbie who'd fell out of the sky. He is a veteran in his own regard, and since his mid-90's beginnings he amassed recording totals of nearly 300 demos and over 32 hours of gameplay. He specializes in tool-assisted demos and became particularly famous in the speedruning community for his unhumanly smooth and efficient slow-motion max runs. His rare mapping adventures also include a notable entry, as he's credited for several Hell Revealed II maps.
Andy's managerial approach continues Opulent's legacy. Every week he scours the forum for new content, fixes the file naming, repackages non-standard archives, categorizes the demos, and then dumps the totals back at Doomworld. Being a speedrunner it's almost easy to forget that such comfort is not a basic human right. There's a slight philosophical difference though. Where Opulent chose not to mirror existing demo sites, Andy made it his goal to bring all demos under one roof. After all, you never know when an ancient site going a decade without an update simply ceases to exist. The logistics of the decision were not easy, though. Andy began his effort by swallowing the Compet-N database, which consists of nearly 9000 demos. It took him several years of weekly toil to process all of them while still handling regular updates as well. In comparison, adding the entirety of Czech-N (over 600 demos) was just a tiny morsel, and he's scoping the PDANG (over 2000 demos) for the next meal.
In practice Andy upgraded Doug's "anything goes" to "everything will be devoured", and to this day the archive boasts an incredible 41000+ demos by nearly 600 players across over 2800 WADs. The total running time? On its way to surpass five months straight sometimes next year. Andy continues to improve the site with finer categorization, table filters, and various stats. He hinted that the database might need another overhaul in the future, as it's starting to buckle under the stress of content fed to its hungry maw. The richness of content and the myriad of exceptions to rules are making the tables confusing to read sometimes. Andy also said, however, that any such a big step would be up to his own successor. Coincidentally it's been eight years since Andy took over, and some time next January he will surpass Opulent's time at the helm. Here's to extending the lead by as much as possible!
To sum up the contribution of these two fine gentlemen, if Ty Halderman was the essential pillar of the community, Doug and Andy are the cornerstones of its demo recording section who kept the building blocks firmly together when most others let loose and crumbled away. You're an inspiration, guys!
Espi Award for Lifetime Achievement
Top Ten - Page 1
- Tech Gone Bad
- Ancient Aliens
- Nihility: Infinite Teeth
Top Ten - Page 2
- Absolutely Killed
- Elf Gets Pissed
Top Ten - Page 3
- Alpha Accident
- Japanese Community Project
- Blade of Agony E1
- Best Gameplay Mod
- Mordeth Award
- Mapper of the Year
THE SKY MAY BE
Writing this brings me a heavy heart. I was a friend of Malinku during his time around Skulltag/Zandronum until about 2013, when he left the community. What he created for the multiplayer community was exceptional: multiple maps for the MSDuel project by the Machine Shop clan back in 2010, End of Days, Power Play, Death Bay, Fort of Astartashwall, and he collaborated with PUN1SH3R on the All Fear the Sentinel deathmatch map pack. He continued to create many wads and maps even after he left Zandronum, which are all worth your time, and now are home to wonderful memories. Even if he's not a name everyone knows, he was a good friend and clanmate. You've left your mark well, Malinku. Now it's time to rest in peace. Rest well.
- The Toxic Avenger
Andrew "Malinku" Rehberger
February 25th, 1991 - November 6, 2016