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  • Mordeth Award - Surprise! Released project with the longest "development time"


    "Pacifist" Speedrunning - The Doom community


    The past year saw many turbulent events. Empires diminished, the entire world shackled at home, a new Doom game released. Many celebrities perished far too soon, many others got suspended from Twitter for a week, at one point the Sun nearly collided with the Moon in the sky. But all that drama pales in comparison with the Doom speedrunning community agreeing—more or less—to revise the rules for pacifist runs. Indeed, ever since the first ecumenical councils there hasn't been such a dramatic, controversial shift in doctrine. The new definition as stated by the Doom Speed Demo Archive reads:


    UV Pacifist: Exit as fast as possible on skill 4, without hurting monsters either directly or indirectly (no barrels).


    Heavy. Unlike other categories, the pacifist monster roster includes the Icon of Sin and Lost Souls. Simple enough otherwise: don't shoot the gun, exit the map. Why then the decades of blood feuds and conversations stalled in the trenches of flamewar? The devil...is in the intent.




    The wording hasn't changed much, but ever since the category was conceived under the Doom Honorific Titles league in 1997, there's always been an accompanying paragraph that explains the particularities. You can explode barrels, unless they hurt monsters. You can lure monsters to infight with your fancy footwork. You can't—wait, why can you telefrag monsters, but aren't allowed to crush them? DHT's successor Compet-N tried to finetune this internal clash between the spirit and the letter of the law and introduced the concept of intent. If you didn't mean to telefrag the monster because you didn't see it, or it walked into a crusher long after you left the room, it's not your fault. The Pope of Compet-N, Adam Hegyi, ruled with wisdom and iron fist, deciding on a case-by-case basis for every run or newly discovered issue.


    But one day around 2004 he vanished, and the community was suddenly left without an undisputed authority. And then PWAD running exploded into popularity and corner cases became so common that they started undermining the entire category. Maps used the Romero head telefrag exit. Combinations of crushers and barrels were a conflicted grey area. Is it an "unintentional" telefrag if I close my eyes before a teleport? Additionally, the DSDA started seeing heavier traffic than the limited map pool of C-N. Demos couldn't all be watched and verified by the archivists, and most were filed according to description claims. This led to accumulation of errors, mostly for a surprising reason: runners knew they were taking a risk stepping into teleporters and classified their runs as the less strict UV-Speed if an accident happened, despite "no intent" under the C-N rule. And some never bothered to tag their UV-Speed records as also-pacifist at all.


    This paralysis lasted over 19 years, until the most recent debate made a breakthrough and agreed to remove intent out of pacifist, or die trying. Every particular sub-issue turned into a yes/no question, ensuring no chance of a full consensus. The hardcore holdouts might never accept all of the bitterly argued points; however, the admins of the DSDA perceived the majority swinging towards a robust, if ethically questionable result: full amnesty for all telefrags and crusher damage. The slight breach of the original spirit allowed one low-key advantage that clinched the deal: it is programmatically traceable, as proven by the newborn dsda-doom port and its analysis options. In effect, the entire pacifist sub-archive can be cleaned up and maintained automatically. That's right, gentlefolks, we've automated the pearly gates.


    - @dew

  • Odyssey of Noises - Best original soundtrack for a Doom project

    DootawardThe Coming Hour - Bastion of Chaos OST - @PRIMEVAL


    The map Bastion of Chaos, as you'll presumably have learned earlier in these (un)hallowed pages, is a massive, brooding edifice hovering in a perpetual crimson-dawned netherspace ominously poised between this and countless other realms, equal parts cathedral, citadel, and military garrison for Hell's roiling hordes. The track itself takes shape as a ten-minute opus of dramatic and unmistakably gothic heavy metal. Evoking both a measured, trancelike air of twistedly exultant reverie through use of overlapping galleries of faux-Latinate choir paired with thin sheets of subtle ambience, and a driving, warlike sense of aggression through very direct, yet effective electric guitar work, "The Coming Hour" expertly matches the dual nature of the setting it's paired with.


    The sense of careful composition at play here should not be understated, particularly as we are dealing with a piece built from modern, high-fidelity digital samples rather than the simpler and arguably more immediately flexible and expressive MIDI format traditional to Doom. "The Coming Hour" consists of two major movements and a brief intermezzo of paraschizoid muttering and whispering (which is the segment you'll hear on the WAD's title screen, incidentally). The first of these, used generally (though not exclusively) as the level's default/ambient theme for exploration and travel between areas, is heavily gothic in tone and textural in approach, placing the choir elements up front relative to a baseline of downtuned rifflets, variously supplemented with echoing acoustic strums and church-organ as well as an untethered, slightly meandering locution of wah-pedaled lead guitar hovering over all like a looming angel of death.


    This is the part of the track that most sold me on it as the inaugural selection for our new soundtrack award, but it certainly would not be complete in effect without the track's second half, which brings the modern metal rhythm section to the fore, focusing on cinderblock-drop guitar breakdowns accented by histrionic escalations from organ and choir, essentially flipping the tone of the sermon from "hellfire" to "brimstone." And, say, is that a reference to Bobby Prince's timeless "Sign of Evil" I hear? Deliciously doomed and Doomy alike, I tell you.



    It's one thing to be a great tune in its own right, but as a fully bespoke composition for the map in which it appears, "The Coming Hour" takes on the additional challenge of meshing with a complex, action-heavy, and quite protracted map in an intimate way, a challenge to which it rises beautifully. Even in its most modern forms, Doom is not a very rigidly scripted or choreographed game at the most structured of times, and Bastion of Chaos constantly vacillates, sometimes quite harshly, between brooding procession through its cavernous chambers and sudden outbursts of intense and often opulent violence, and Primeval's track has an answer and a ready accompaniment for all of this, regardless of which movement of the song is currently scripted to run in the level (and this situational in-level scripting is for the most part quite well-judged, to Bridgeburner56's credit). It is for this, for suiting such a dramatic, multi-faceted map not only in general mood but also in varying pace and finer texture, that "The Coming Hour" is the inaugural Odyssey of Noises. Hail! \m/


    - @Demon of the Well


  • Codeaward - Most noteworthy programming effort of the year

    6_codeaward.png?_cb=1544275061The Unity Port - Mike "@sponge" Rubits et al


    First released in July 2019, the "Unity port" is the colloquial name for the official Nerve Software-developed port of the classic Dooms to modern systems, using the Unity engine as a cross-platform substrate. At this time last year we mentioned the Unity port in less than glowing terms, with the caveat that the port was hamstrung by its legal inability to benefit from the decades of source port development, as Free software may not flow upstream back into a commercial product. I lamented that this licensing firewall would prevent the Unity port from becoming truly interesting.


    What I failed to anticipate was that under the post-release guiding hand of long time id employee Mike "sponge" Rubits and the stewardship of Kevin Cloud, id Software might turn to unorthodox methods. Faced with the prospect of the official port seeming old and creaky next to its Free Software forebears, id simply paid Doom source port developers to relicense their code. In the last year the Unity port has seen the addition of frame interpolation and proper widescreen support, contributed by @AlexMax. Even more astonishingly, it added support for DeHackEd patches, courtesy of @fraggle.


    These additions have turned the Unity port into something both with modern niceties and extreme faithfulness to the original DOS game. One of sponge's priorities has been ensuring that every single gameplay quirk the Doom demo format relies upon has remained pure and untouched. This ensures, for instance, that the title screen demo reel plays out identically to how it did in 1995. It also means that the Unity port functions almost as a new "reference port" a la Chocolate/Crispy Doom, with almost perfectly anal-retentive attention to detail—up to and including new widescreen art assets.




    The glow-up on the Unity port would have been impressive enough if it had stopped there. Perhaps most important, however, has been the addition of an integrated menu system for browsing and downloading "Add-Ons", aka Doom WADs. I can't say for sure this is the first Doom port ever to integrate a WAD browser / downloader, but it's certainly the highest profile one, advertising those WADs to a huge new audience who likely would have never stumbled across them otherwise. Will we see future Doom projects pitched as "official add-on bait"?


    There are, of course, numerous limitations. One does not simply download any myhouse.wad out there—id has constructed its own walled garden of consecrated WADs, drip-feeding new (well, "new") releases periodically. These have spanned the gamut from fairly run of the mill mapsets to entirely new, uh, games, since a total conversion like REKKR can't be fairly classified as anything less. id also requires the written legal consent of everyone involved. For a long-lasting community like Doom's, that means attempts to add certain "classic" projects are likely foreclosed, where an author has passed away or is otherwise unreachable. Perhaps most notable on this list of untouchables is the Boom source port itself, and its toolkit of "Boom-compatible" features. A huge percentage of post-source-release Doom WADs are probably permanently excluded from the Add-Ons library, absent a heroic reverse-engineering effort—but after what I've seen from the port this year, I won't call it impossible.


    - @Linguica


  • Machaward - Most creative, unusual, or artistically compelling project of the year


    Arbitrary Code Execution - @kgsws


    Finding an arbitrary code execution (ACE) exploit in a program is the holy grail for any determined hacker. In general, this requires finding a bug allowing a user to shim in their own code somehow—either by loading their own data, or as any long time GDQ watcher knows by now, even by coding it in with controller button presses.


    Perhaps 2020 left hackers with a lot of extra computer time, because the dam broke this year for Doom ACE exploit shenanigans. In June of this year, longtime community member @Revenant poked at the Doom source code and realized she could feed the Doom engine a specially constructed .cfg file, overflowing a buffer and letting her pwn the system. The method was somewhat arcane, however, requiring use of the little-known -config command line option, and was not further pursued.


    Only a few months later in September, kgsws also cracked the code. The first revelation was that the savegame loading code could be coerced into running an ACE exploit through clever construction. kgsws went above and beyond the "Hello world" style proof of concept by coding classic calculator game Snake directly onto the Doom HUD. Again, however, this required an obscure -loadgame command, so while it proved the point, it was less beautiful than it could be.




    At that stage a less inspired hacker might call it a day, having definitively pwned DOS Doom. kgsws continued searching, however, and soon weaponized another vulnerability inside the WAD loading code. This new technique allowed all of the trickery to be esconsed inside a "normal" PWAD and loaded using the normal -file command.


    The consequences of this are potentially enormous. The classic tool DeHackEd was developed in 1994 because hackers quickly grew frustrated with Doom's set-in-stone gameplay variables and paged through Doom's binary code to document a set of integers and text strings that could be safely overwritten. A Doom ACE exploit, on the other hand, allows a hacker to run absolutely any code at all. Mouselook and colored lighting? Sure. A DECORATE parser? Why not? Maybe someone will eventually stick Quake inside of a Doom WAD. What's to stop them? An ACE exploit means that literally anything can be done in a DOS Doom mod now, provided a person is willing to go to the effort to implement it.


    What does this mean for Doom modding? Probably not much, really, since who's playing Doom under DOS anymore? Perhaps a functional DECORATE parser in DOS Doom will eventually shame other source ports into adopting it as a cross platform standard, but anything could happen. A working, documented ACE exploit also means that running Doom in a DOSBox directory alongside other sensitive files could even potentially be a security risk. It is, however, profoundly cool.


    - @Linguica


    2143949703_6_creatoroftheyear.png?_cb=15Creator of the Year - @Bridgeburner56


    From the very beginning of his Doom career, Bridgeburner has aimed far and high to create some of the most aesthetically pleasing and ass-kicking maps possible. His very first publicly released map in Joy of Mapping 6 quickly established that he was in no way new to the game—in truth, he’s been mapping about 15 years on and off, mostly honing his skills outside of the community. But since 2018, he’s grown his mapping skills in the public eye, and at an incredibly voracious rate, at that.




    His first real break, however, came in May of 2019, with his first solo release, The Slaughter Spectrum. Five beautiful, incredible, mind-bending maps that stood to challenge just what was thought to be possible with Doom—in Bridge’s case, the sky (or the void) couldn’t even hold him back. Bridgeburner’s style and mapping prowess on full display, each map filled with incredible, behemoth architecture but detailed to razor-sharp precision, it was enough to spawn a whole new era in mapping—the Nouveau-Hardcore era, as Not Jabba detailed in The Roots of Doom Mapping’s Chapter 11 last year.


    When he wasn’t smashing record linedef counts while creating his incredible UDMF works, he was sharpening his teeth in other formats. 1000 Line Community Projects 1 and 2 both afforded him the opportunity to create his signature flavor of hardcore combat while remaining within both vanilla limits and a mere 1000 lines. His participation in DyingCamel’s Demons 3, a Boom-format set, proved that Bridgeburner is no less than a mapping machine—not bound by formats or time limits when it comes to just how far he can push the editor.




    Then came…The Mapwich.


    The Mapwich's premise of randomly assigned pairs of mappers was at first daunting, but Bridgeburner lead it with style, setting an example with General Roasterock in his usual over-the-top mapping style. What lessons he learned in the first iteration carried over into Mapwich 2: The Mapwitchening, even despite several challenges faced with the use of a different source port and the addition of a gameplay mod. His pairing with fellow mapping legend Dragonfly produced one of the best mapping collaborations in 2020, "Knowledge Is Power." A true exploratory masterpiece, this sprawling iron fortress nestled into blood-filled caves holds some of the most brutal and brilliant fights in the set, a direct result of some of the best brains in modern Doom mapping being put together.


    With all of 2020’s craziness with quarantines and isolation, the self-proclaimed “mad mapper” did what he does best—created something truly mad. Entering: Bastion of Chaos. A true culmination of all that he’s learned in the past two years of his career, Bridge goes all out in this epic adventure of a map, which contains equal parts terrifying gameplay and beautiful vistas. This black and red marble monstrosity leaves the player often running towards its red seas for reprieve, but there is none to be found—Bridge leaves nothing to chance and no mercy at any point, the thunderous cries of demons echoing large within its great halls. This only a small taste of what’s to come—and what’s that, you might ask?


    An Age of Hell is coming.


    What started off as an inkling of an idea 10 years ago has now gained a life of its own, a cavalcade of some of the most talented Doom mappers, spriters, musicians, and graphics artists this side of Hell marching to the beat of Bridgeburner’s thunderous drums. With gorgeous paladin-inspired weapons and some of the most mind-blowing mapping seen to date, Age of Hell has quickly become one of the most ambitious total conversions the Doom community has seen—and it hasn’t even been released yet.



    What makes Bridgeburner truly stand head and shoulders above the rest, however, is his leadership and sense of community. His Discord server, the Hellforge, has grown to over 1000 members over the course of two years, and has become a haven for all those who love Doom. Several incredible projects have been nurtured there, including the Hellforge’s own Mapwich 1 and 2, and RonnieJamesDiner’s Tartarus. The Hellforged Speedmapping sessions have also been in full force this year—low-key, 2-hour sessions every month or so, giving mappers both new and experienced a chance to show off what they can build quickly. Whether it’s through his streams, through his Discord server, or among the seemingly hundreds of other places he can be found, Bridge is always ready with sage and practical mapping advice, or simply a word of encouragement when one really needs it. Without a doubt, Bridgeburner is a force to be reckoned with, bringing a new age of mapping with him.


    - @Major Arlene


  • 2020 Cacowards


    Espi Award for Lifetime Achievement

    • James "Quasar" Haley


    Top Ten - Page 1

    • Antaresian Reliquary
    • Abandon
    • Rowdy Rudy 2: Powertrip


    Top Ten - Page 2

    • Ar Luminae
    • Running Late 2
    • Bastion of Chaos
    • Mutabor


    Top Ten - Page 3

    • Three is a Crowd
    • Syringe
    • Faithless Trilogy


    Special Features


    Multiplayer Awards

    • DoomWare
    • Progressive Duel 3


    Gameplay Mod Awards

    • Nobody Told Me About id
    • Treasure Tech
    • SWWM GZ


    Other Awards

    • Mordeth Award
      • Pacifist speedrunning
    • Codeaward
      • The Unity port
    • Machaward
      • Arbitrary code execution
    • Dootaward
      • Bastion of Chaos OST
    • Creator of the Year
      • Bridgeburner



    Continuing with last year's trend of bad news first, @Andy Olivera's DSDA 2.0 is defunct for good and the domain fell through in November. Thanks for the years of service, Andy! The balancing good news is that @kraflab recruited an entire management team for DSDA 3.0 and the new archive is humming along. Some long-discussed features were introduced, such as tic-beaters (centisecond precision) as opposed to records that first break a second barrier. kraflab also added various stats such as time split info, record progression graphs and activity histograms. Most importantly, new intro and git gud guides have been written.


    Why? Because the demo activity blew up and new players have been a major factor. The first, most obvious reason is exposure gained from id Software releasing Doom Eternal and nurturing the classic Unity port to a very healthy state. The second factor is the @Karl Jobst effect. KJ, a popular GoldenEye speedrunner and YouTuber, continued to explore Doom's speedrun history and presence and channeled throngs of eager newcomers, (almost) all willing to smash that E1M1 record.


    And it's good that Doom was ready for the influx this time. The speedrunning Discord doubled in size. Crispy Doom by @fabian made major strides in quality of life features, most importantly in-game demo restarts, which made speed grinds orders of magnitude less annoying. Also, kraflab took the plunge and forked the slowly rotting prboom-plus to create dsda-doom, which already boasts tons of analytical demo options and the dreamy ghost-race feature.


    Doom 2 30UV saw a full rotation by the usual suspects, with @ZeroMaster010 claiming the record (18:30), only to be beaten 2 days later by @eLim (18:17), then after months of grind @Looper authoritatively reclaimed his #1 spot with a new minute barrier-breaker clocking at 17:55 (demo/video). The race may be far from over, because just a few days ago, ZM announced a new find in the out-of-bounds industry—a door glide on Map18.


    Other notable speedruns include two improvements on Plutonia 30NM. First @S6kana broke Zero-Master's 5-year old record with 38:00, which spurned ZM to retake it with 34:28 (demo/video). The realm of individual level runs saw the emergence of @depr4vity. Honestly, anything from him is good, but he also achieved the first-ever legit 4 second nomonster run on Map01 (4.97), a masterclass in clean movement. @4shockblast, another regular in breathtaking achievements, managed to fill the standouts in the Sunlust pacifist tables. All it took was a hilarious archvile jump-propelled death slide through a small window on Map15 (0:50), a lengthy infightathon on Map13 (5:10) and... checks notes God Machine in 23:51, including an early glide and a zero-press while in nukage, a nasty forward archvile jump and then 20 minutes of drawing the rest of the fucking owl in the final arena. Recorded yesterday, making me rewrite this section, argh!


    The UV-Max front saw a grand return of veteran @Vile, who took multiple minutes from both Doom 2 (1:22:47) and Plutonia (1:42:50, demo) D2Alls. However, the former was surprisingly usurped just a few days ago by a newcomer @NightTerror (1:19:10, demo), and the latter by Vile himself literal minutes before this year's publication went up (1:39:07, demo). @Bob9001 managed to improve the TNT D2All to 3:27:06. And perhaps the most impressive demo of the year came from @Daerik, who performed the impossible and completed a D2All of Sunlust...in 4:23:47 (demo/video) after months of persistent grinding. What a guy! He also completed a lovely max of Eviternity Map32 in 29:40. And if you crave more, another fresh face, @Arbys550, managed to finish a D2All of Scythe 2 in 3:37:17 (demo/video).



    Does this enormous list suggest the boundless enthusiasm for Doom and its relations, or the hubris that will inevitably lead to the community's downfall? Is this the same boilerplate text as last year's column? The answer to at least one of these questions is "yes."


    • A Boy and His Barrel
    • Action Doom 3
    • Adventures of Square E3
    • Age of Hell
    • Amiga Demo Party
    • Ashes: Afterglow
    • Autobiographical Architecture
    • Autumn Flock
    • Avactor 2
    • Back to Saturn X E3
    • Cereal Killer
    • Cipher
    • CyberShade
    • Dancing in the Abyss
    • Dark Universe E2
    • Darkmoon
    • Deluge: Onset
    • Deus Vult II-2
    • Doom: The Golden Souls 3
    • Elementalism
    • Final Doom the Way id Did
    • Fortune's Run
    • Happy Time Circus 3
    • Hell-Forged: Sharnadoom!
    • Heretic: Curse of Darkness
    • HPack
    • Interstellar Enforcer
    • Kama Sutra 2
    • Kuroneko Project
    • Lost Civilization Part 2
    • Lunar Catastrophe 2
    • Mordeth E2
    • Necromantic Thirst
    • Ozonia
    • Panophobia
    • Perdition's Gate Resurgence
    • Plutonia 3
    • The Realm of Z-Magic
    • Reelism 2
    • Rekkr E4
    • Relyctum
    • Revelations of Doom
    • The Shores of ZDoom
    • Sigma-X
    • Strife: Mothership
    • Sunder (v2)
    • Supplice
    • Switcheroom 2
    • Threshold of Pain 2
    • TNT 2: Devilution
    • UAC Ultra 2
    • Ultimate Doom in Name Only
    • Vela Pax
    • WolfenDoom: Blade of Agony E3



    2020 has been a fairly busy time on the official side of the fence, too. In March, Doom Eternal managed to achieve release, and while it was a huge success, it immediately proved divisive among long-time fans of the series with its weapon-swap-heavy, resource-management-centric combat, a plotline that took a turn from 2016's corporate satire to comic-book cosmic weirdness, non-standard competitive multiplayer and, yes, the now-infamous Marauder.


    Alongside Doom Eternal came a fresh port of Doom 64 by a team of community veterans at Night Dive Studios, including Doom 64 EX developer Kaiser. This went down a real treat, providing a smooth and accurate recreation of the classic former-console-exclusive with the addition of The Lost Levels, a new episode of well-made (and tough as boots) levels by Kaiser himself, waiting for you after you've beaten the original campaign.


    As the year progressed, the much-maligned official console ports of Doom were also able to become considerably less maligned, although you can read about that elsewhere on this page...


    Finally, the year was capped off in October with Doom Eternal: The Ancient Gods Part 1, the first of two planned pieces of campaign DLC and a real punch in the face for anyone expecting the power-fantasy to continue unabated, providing some impressively-hard new encounters that brush precariously against the edge of Perhaps A Bit Much, to the point where the much-hyped fight against two Marauders at once turned out to be the easy bit...


    December 10th marked the 27 year anniversary of Doom?



    Doom II: Hell on Earth’s Twitch viewer count reached its all time peak at 22.8k concurrent viewers in February of this year?



    Mordeth was still not released in 2020 despite over twenty-two years of development?