Top Ten - Page 1
One thing that has been a consistent source of creativity in the community is the abuse of limitations and glitches to interesting effect. Probably the most well-known example of this is the humble voodoo doll, a simple player spawn error that's become a vital part of mapping over the years. Be it voodoo dolls opening doors, ghost monsters creating interesting encounters, or areas that can be SR40'd/SR50'd onto, you'd be extremely hard-pressed to find any major mapset that doesn't make use of Doom glitches to further how it plays.
And then we've got lilith.pk3.
lilith.pk3 wholly embraces the philosophy of using glitches as another set of paint on the artist's palette and goes an extra step further, mapping not just with Doom glitches in mind but also glitches in the final release of the ZDoom source port as well. And while most people would be satisfied with having metaphorically fucked the engine's head sideways and then released it as some sort of half-assed creepypasta, Anotak went another extra step even further and made it into a damn fun and interesting mapset.
Taking full advantage of the Minus World aesthetic, Lilith.pk3 sports incredibly unique set-ups by "glitching" things up and then building around them. Enemy projectiles obviously shouldn't just hang in the air, but it gives the player something to carefully maneuver around. Arachnotrons obviously shouldn't be getting yanked around a map, but it makes an open area dangerous to move around without paying attention to things. Explosive barrels obviously shouldn't be spawning in droves in a previously-safe area, but when shotgun guys swarm in, then it makes things hectic as hell. A pillar obviously shouldn't be moving by itself around a map, but it makes an Archvile encounter far more interesting than just ducking behind a solid area again and again.
It all comes together to perfectly replicate that adventurous feeling of crawling through old games' glitchy secret worlds, but without the unfortunate side effect of suddenly being caught into an area that causes a crash and wipes your savegames. lilith.pk3 is truly a unique experience, one we've never had before, probably will never have again, and well worth grabbing a copy of the now-defunct ZDoom just to play with.
Shadows of the Nightmare Realm
- Alexa "YukiRaven" Jones-Gonzales
As someone who's gone deep down the rabbit hole of fan-made content in both the Doom and Quake modding communities, I can attest that different games really do breed different priorities among the artists who love them. Doom's most venerated map authors take wicked glee in embracing the engine's colorful style and their ability to pack threats into every corner, creating harrowing gauntlets that keep the adrenaline pumping nonstop. Quake, which was built around lower monster counts and 3D-enabled realism, more often inspires its best mappers to the heights of Lovecraftian madness, crafting environments with a certain eerie wrongness and mystery to them that itches at the back of your mind. The more limits you remove with modern technology, the more you find that Doom gets even more Doomy, and Quake becomes more of a raw Quake experience than it has ever been.
But how cool could it get if someone actually blended the two aesthetics into some twisted yet coherent ideal? As someone well versed in both games, YukiRaven seems the ideal person to answer that question. Shadows of the Nightmare Realm is in many ways the best of both worlds: the skin-crawling immersiveness of Quake alongside the more brutal, faster-paced combat of Doom. From right out of the gate, as you traverse a misty Quake-style start map where huge, spinning globs of flesh hang suspended in midair, SotNR is dripping with atmosphere. It's not just the heavy darkness punctuated by bursts of lightning or flickering colored lights. It's not just the semi-ambient soundtrack that leaves you wondering whether that last noise you heard was a monster in the shadows behind you or just the Elder Gods fucking with your head. It's not just the library of custom textures and menagerie of monsters that add to the enigmatic lore of this alternate Doom universe that YukiRaven has created. The reality of the game world warps seamlessly around you, with the doorway you just came through suddenly becoming a portal into another world, and monsters pulling no punches about emerging out of thin air where there was no threat a moment ago. There's a kind of creeping insanity to these levels that goes hand in hand with the Lovecraftian story texts that punctuate the spaces between them.
At the same time, you get claustrophobic battles aplenty across varied 3D spaces with combinations of Doom's more deadly baddies -- as well as a generous handful of tastefully used and quite evil custom monsters, about half of which are flyers that can get the drop on you from above if you're not careful. The set culminates in a boss level that manages to take the better elements of an Icon of Sin fight and turn them into an intuitive multi-stage endurance test, with a flesh-and-blood nemesis at the end that you get to blast to bloody giblets as a reward for your efforts.
In essence, this marriage of Doom gameplay with a more modern FPS aesthetic is what GZDoom has always been about, but projects that make the most of the port's great capabilities are rare, if only because the more elements you add to your game, the more difficult it is to master them all. YukiRaven accomplishes it all with love and flair, and I can't wait to see what she brings to the table next.
No End in Sight
- NaturalTvventy, Xaser and Lutz
Irving Berlin once wrote for a 1950 musical that "anything Doom can do, Two can do better..." and Hell if that 'ain't a powerful sentiment. Doom 2 sports all of the first game's monsters, for starters; the same weapons, items and mechanics. It has the same crunchy-looking art direction. It doesn't have the handy episodic structure or intermission screens, admittedly (or that damn fine SKINTEK texture we all know and love — a Xaser special), but hey; when has teleporting into a barrel ever hurt anyone? Death exits are fun!
There is a problem with this blunt way of separating the two games, of course, though it is not betrayed by attitudes within modern map-making for Doom — by now an almost archaeological practice in which players are presented with dig sites they can sift through for memories. Certainly, unless it's alongside a bunch of stuff from the early releases of the game (Alpha Incident, Nihility), you won't often see new resources being introduced to expand upon what's there, so it's all too easy to behold Doom's legacy as something like smack for nostalgia junkies while its sequel continues to evolve. What ultimately reveals that there's more to Doom than this, then, are sets like Return to Hadron and Absolutely Killed with their uniquely chaotic skirmishes and gimmicks. NaturalTvventy and Xaser, though...? They're something else.
No End in Sight is a match made in heaven... for Hell! Four almost-vanilla episodes that play like a corrupted jaunt down memory lane; a derangement that slowly emerges from its DTWiD origins as you work your way down, deeper into dungeon-like layouts. A dismantling of expectations. It's engrossing, creative and evil, my God. Oh, so evil. The environments prove as dangerous and deceptive as the monsters that inhabit them, a quality that many will hold dear from both the original game and Tvventy's much-celebrated Beginning of the End series, and which is here amplified to field terror and uncertainty at every opportunity. Although it was heavily aided by my accidentally disabling the stock music partway through the second episode, the sensation of fear — genuine fear — is very implicit in the design and pacing of the set, growing steadily until the player is able to sustain it for himself through mere glances at all that ominous architecture. No small feat for a WAD that features precisely zero arch-viles.
The chemistry between our three principal mappers boils over in the back half of the set, where whatever tendons of sanity still tethering them to more familiar Dooms are severed. Madness takes over in the Netherworld Citadel, a never-ending sprawl of marble and darkness that put me in mind of J. S. Graham's Rylayeh for its imposing sense of placelessness. Sanctuary of Filth consummates the heightened danger with multiple bosses in a bad, bad space, and Lutz's precious offerings weave a welcome level of detail into a set that champions more abstract designs, at heart. Truly, the already enigmatic mind of Xaser is empowered by his idol-in-crime, himself one of the most skilled proponents of the original Doom and the qualities that make it distinct from Hell on Earth.
While it may just as easily be a nod to the WAD's tortured development cycle, I like to imagine that the name "No End in Sight" is a surrendering to Doom; the Ultimate acknowledgement of a hobby that continues to show the world that it has no borders — or at least none on the immediate horizon. That is, of course, until NEIS2 comes around... at which point we'll all be left wondering what we missed.
Espi Award for Lifetime Achievement
Top Ten - Page 1
- Shadows of the Nightmare Realm
- No End in Sight
Top Ten - Page 2
Top Ten - Page 3
- Legacy of Heroes
- Saturnine Chapel
- Stardate 20X7
- Void and Rainbow
- Progressive Duel 2
Gameplay Mod Awards
- Doom Delta
- Final Doomer
- High Noon Drifter
- Mordeth Award
- Mapper of the Year
Rise of the Wool Ball - MSPaintR0cks
This sequel to last year's Shadow of the Wool-Ball improves on its already fun predecessor in almost every conceivable way, most notably updating its "engine" to include Rise of the Triad-inspired features such as bounce pads and hovering platforms. So you weren't sold on Shadow's simplistic mix of shotguns and bullet weapons? How about an exploding cucumber launcher and a rapid-fire bird-poop gun? What's really great, however, is the way this story-driven TC keeps you rooting for its characters and laughing the whole way -- effectively piecing together an off-the-wall mix of ideas that's as eclectic as it is adorable, including (but by no means limited to) psychic sheep, absurdly gigantic cat-faced crushers, a boss battle that takes place on a skateboard, and a parachuting Trojan Cat.
Even as fan-made content keeps getting better and better, few people have ever been able to recreate the sheer childlike joy that came from playing Doom for the first time back when it was new. But with its combination of shiny new features and notes of nostalgic wonder, Rise of the Wool-Ball comes awfully close.
Return to Hadron Episode 2 - Matt "cannonball" Powell
If you haven't heard the phrase "sheepdog Doom" by now, then please accept my apologies—I haven't been peddling it enough.
cannonball's understanding of the first game's limitations combine with his want for destruction to create a special blend of chaos that only Doom can provide, first showcased in the initial episode of his ConC.E.R.Ned reformation. The Collider's new clothes builds upon this brand as well as can be expected with all the kitchen sinks at Doom's disposal, charting outward into more dramatic, Deimosian and longer-lasting skirmishes that manage to avoid every pitfall you'd associate with excess. Sometimes, having more of a good thing really is just that. In Collider's case, it's more a Great thing. Why not try it on for size?
TNT: Revilution - Various
Revilution has been anticipated for many years, and the infamy around the development cycle almost reached Plutonia 2 levels. However the end product is right on the money and delivers a rather faithful spiritual sequel to Evilution, a full megawad of vanilla levels more or less in the spirit of Team TNT, with all the good and bad. Like in a bag of trail mix, you get tasty exotic nuts from mapper names you draw hearts around in your dream vacation atlas, that deliver witty ideas and cute callbacks to the original. Then there's a good amount of almond and peanut base that performs just fine, with more direct references and more schematic gameplay expected from a TNT project... and then the rest is filled with raisins. Depending on whether "raisins" are your kink, you will either love this project to the max, or you'll find yourself carefully picking out your favourites.