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Not Jabba

Not Jabba's Not the Cacowards Review Corner (The Red Line)

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Nice review of Mayhem Orange and Purple. Glad you liked my map. :)

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2 hours ago, Not Jabba said:

@Ryath

 

Hey, that's me!

 

Thanks for this review, @Not Jabba! I love reading these, and agree with all your criticisms of the map. 90% chance there will be a sequel in some form or another, though even I don't really know what that sequel will look like.

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Posted (edited)

The Kerberos Complex by @antares031 (Doomworld Mega Project 2017 map 24)

 

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Dividing a map into color-coded sections is a visual gimmick that goes back a long way, and it's no wonder; it's a simple way to make each section of the map feel like it has its own distinct mood, and often to make the layout easier to remember, while keeping a sense of cohesiveness throughout the whole map and keeping resource creation minimal by using recolored versions of the same textures. The trope probably originated with "Killer Colours" from Alien Vendetta, but there have been a host of other maps that improve on the formula: there's the high-tech neon Sekkusu, one of my favorite early ZDoom-compatible maps (and its sequel, which appeared in the first Newdoom Community Project); Eternal's artsy and surreal "Warp of Time" from Hell Ground; Nanka Kurashiki's adorable fruit-themed "My Fav" from JPCP; and now Kerberos Complex. It's worth noting that all of the aforementioned maps except Sekkusu were brainstormed for the Top 100 Memorable Maps list (with two of them making the final list and one of them on the runner-up list), so it must be a pretty damn good gimmick, at that. As for Kerberos Complex, it was overshadowed by the release of an immensely popular megawad by the same author -- and of course it wasn't really eligible for Cacoward consideration, as one entry in a 52-map community project -- but it's still an awesome map.

 

It's beautiful, for one thing: an ultra-futuristic techbase where each primary color stands out in bright contrast to gray stone and metal, full of flickering and glowing sectors that add that extra bit of atmosphere at each turn. Antares is one of the modern masters of creating detailing so layered and consistent that the map is almost dizzying, but without any of it getting in the way of the playable space.

 

The mapper's gameplay style is also fairly consistent, so Kerberos Complex plays a lot like the average Struggle map. Its difficulty on UV is generally equivalent to the midpoint of the megawad on HMP -- constant heavy incidental combat throughout the majority of the layout, but with a few big setpiece fights around the keys and an extremely intense three-part finale. That said, it doesn't use any of Struggle's Dehacked work on the weapons and monsters, so the pacing and monster usage are a lot more like what you'd typically expect in a modern Doom map. Although I like Struggle's amped-up take on Doom's gameplay, I enjoyed Kerberos Complex more than most individual maps in the megawad, partly because the style of both the visuals and gameplay feels a bit cleaner, and partly, I suppose, because I'm just a huge sucker for nonlinear megamaps.

 

The complex is very interconnected and sandboxy, so you can approach it pretty much however you want, and there's little chance of getting lost or hitting a dead end, because everywhere leads to everywhere. The central green area serves as a hub and contains the three keycards, while the big yellow, blue, and red side complexes each house a skull key of the appropriate color, which you'll need to survive a big arena battle to reach. Red is the most brutal, but it also awards you with the most easily accessible BFG. This arena also allows you to choose between two different battles via a multiple-choice switch selection, complete with a big sign that makes the decision factor really obvious (and borrows from "My Fav" in the process). That's something I really love about this map: the goals are mandatory, but it gives you plenty of options.

 

Once you have all the keys, you go back to the hub and initiate the final sequence of fights. I won't spoil too much of it here, but as someone who likes my biggest fights to be high-spectacle and high-intensity but still *relatively* low-stress, I found it very enjoyable. I hope you like Revenants, though, because this time you're out of options.

 

With all due respect to the rest of the mappers, I didn't play any of the other maps in DMP2017, but I think it's well worth downloading the whole thing just to play Kerberos Complex, and chances are you might find some other stuff you enjoy while you're at it. As a large stand-alone map, it stands toe to toe with the likes of Man on the Moon and Port Glacia.

Edited by Not Jabba

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6 hours ago, Not Jabba said:

The Kerberos Complex by @antares031 (Doomworld Mega Project 2017 map 24)

 

 

Much appreciated for the detailed review of The Kerberos Complex, Not Jabba! This is so wonderful gift for my birthday. :)

 

The basic concept of The Kerberos Complex was originally based on the MAP16 of Struggle; the green sector was designed as a central hub of other three colored sectors. I really liked this concept, and I thought it's pretty good idea for a giant non-linear level. So I decided to expand the idea for bigger, more complex level with boom-compatibility, so I could use more options than limit-removing. To show the relationship between those levels, The very beginning part of KC was designed to have the similar view from the MAP16:

 

Spoiler

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It's also worth mentioning that the colorful spiral monuments were inspired by @Manbou's "A resplendent emerald green"; MAP27 of Japanese Community Project. The first time I watched the similar decoration from MAP06 of that wad, I thought this was really cool idea as a decoration. And after I beat MAP27, I really wanted to design something, based on those floating spiral sculptures around that enormous emerald-colored realm. And yes, speaking of JPCP, I did borrow the idea of the adorable question from "My Fav" by @Kurashiki. To me, that part actually made me smile in a really good way, and it was one of the most memorable moments of the entire wad. So it's no wonder I decided to pay homage to it.

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I love reading these kinds of reviews! Thanks a ton, Not Jabba. Always makes me glad when people enjoy my schlock work!

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5 hours ago, Nirvana said:

Nice to see some long-form reviews on here!

 

Ditto, imagine if we had a hub (organized, navigable) for stuff like this. I mean we have, but they come and go, and/or are buried knee deep in the forum.

 

Anyhoo, carry on with the writin' and reviewin' sir

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Vorpal said:

 

Ditto, imagine if we had a hub (organized, navigable) for stuff like this. I mean we have, but they come and go, and/or are buried knee deep in the forum.

 

Anyhoo, carry on with the writin' and reviewin' sir

 

One pipe dream idea I had but dismissed since I definitely wasn't up to the task was to grab reviews from the Doom diaspora (many of which are now defunct except on archive.org) and throw them together with stuff like Dwmc and the more longform reviews now appearing in the new frontend. Something like a Doom meta critic. It's a neat idea but I'd have to give up my own endeavors to even attempt it and I have no inkling of the infrastructure required, lol

Edited by kmxexii

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Posted (edited)

Under a Freezing Sea by @A.Gamma

 

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Under a Freezing Sea is the first solo release by A.Gamma, though their mapping credits go back as far as the Hymn community project for Heretic. The Hymn map is strongly driven by setting and exploration, and this moderately large single GZDoom map follows in a similar vein but gave the author more of a chance to shine and started to earn them some well-deserved recognition last year. It's one of those GZDoom maps that plays similarly to a classic Doom experience but adds more depth to many aspects of the game through its advanced feature use, particularly the sense of narrative and the layout.

 

The map begins very quietly, with the first few minutes of play being virtually monsterless. You hunt around, pick up a couple of basic weapons, and wonder when the other shoe is going to drop as you attempt to find a way to restore power to the base and access the rest of the map. This section sets the mood and also introduces you to some of the basic mechanics of play, including the first of the map's underwater sections. It's nice and creepy and uncertain, though some music might have done it good.

 

Once you restore power and enter the underwater portion of the base, you're immediately hit with some pretty heavy combat, including a turreted Cyberdemon right in the central room where you start out. The combination of slow opener and sudden hot start is pretty cool, and it forces you to immediately start moving around the base complex. The vast majority of the map is accessible right away, but no matter which way you run from the start, you'll have to do some work to carve out a foothold, as the opposition remains pretty steady throughout the base and there are tough monsters waiting at most of the key points where you might otherwise be able to take a breather. It's not too tough, but it's nice and active. There are also several custom monsters thrown into the mix, including that hanging torso turret and a variant of the Hades Elemental, and a couple of monsters that populate the underwater sections.

 

The feature use is pretty good in general, but the underwater areas are the most interesting and distinguishing part of the map. The combat is fairly light down there as you might hope, but the unique monsters give these sections a sense of being their own unique thing. It really adds an extra layer to the map (literally), since you are able to go down into the water and resurface in different sections of the base, adding a much stronger sense of three-dimensionality than would have been achieved with the 3D floors/ramps alone. You can run out of air and gradually drown underwater, but there are bubble spawners that refill your supply, which eliminates the aggravation of having to go back to the surface for air and helps to make the swimming mechanics feel more integrated with the underwater combat and exploration.

 

There's a lot to like about Under a Freezing Sea. I enjoyed the underwater arctic base setting, and there are some good secrets and a good general sense of explorability. It feels like a continuation of the classic tradition of ZDoom maps -- stuff like Knee-Deep in ZDoom and Genesis of Descent -- but updated for modern players.

 

 

 

Diabolus Ex by @Arvell

 

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Diabolus Ex's sources of inspiration should be fairly obvious from the title, if not from a first glance at the starting area. It's hard for me to judge exactly how much of an homage the map is, or how successful, because it's largely drawing from games I've never played, expecially the Deus Ex series. The cyberpunk vibe is very distinctive, though, and handled with a lot of flair.

 

There are a few things that Diabolus Ex does really well. The atmosphere and the attention to the setting are top notch. The map takes place in an office building at the heart of some corporate skyscraper hell of the future, though it happens to be populated with Doom's usual roster of demons. As you pierce through the opposition on your way up from the security checkpoints to the data storage vaults and upper offices to the final battle on the roof, you'll also make a couple of side trips into that colorful, abstract sort of cyberspace setting that's such a hallmark of cyberpunk games. All of it feels really vivid, never more so than when you find yourself out on a balcony staring out at the gorgeous sky, which shows the rest of the city far below you -- but even the more basic areas feel like a real place that's lovingly rendered in full detail. I had initially assumed that the texture set must come from games like Deus Ex, but it appears to have all been custom made by Arvell, and it adds a lot to the feel of the setting. The music also synergizes really well with the map -- it's one of those tracks that fits the theme so well and has so much mood to it that it's virtually impossible not to feel immersed.

 

The gameplay is an area where I think the author struggles a lot more, probably just because they're relatively new to the game; I don't think they lack the creativity or design perception necessary to make great maps. Most of the layout and combat design in Diabolus Ex is fairly basic and trivial. There are a lot of theoretically great ideas about different ways of approaching the map -- alternate routes for observant players, entire optional sections of the map, and so on -- but for anyone who's spent a lot of time playing Doom, the secrets are all extremely easy to find on a first pass, and the combat isn't nearly tough enough to push the alternate playstyle options or routes as interesting options; they're simply something you go through for completion. One fight against an Arch-Vile and some Imps contains a Megasphere and then a secret Soulsphere right afterward -- if I recall correctly, because the author and their testers found the fight pretty difficult. The final battle is against a Spiderdemon and a handful of minions with lots of cover -- not a challenging fight under normal circumstances, but particularly easy if you've accidentally stumbled onto most of the map's secrets already, including a BFG.

 

I have mixed feelings about Diabolus Ex and don't think it got a lot of love among the Cacoward judges, but my impression is that it was one of the two most popular snubs of 2018, along with Tangerine Nightmare. So if this sounds like your kind of thing, you shouldn't miss it. I think it is especially likely to appeal to newer players, since those who still find the basics of Doom combat to be challenging are likely to appreciate the intentionality and depth that went into the level design.

 

 

 

Doom 3: Primary Excavation Site by @DooM_RO

 

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Here's one I did love, for the most part. Taking some of its cues from Doom 3, Primary Excavation Site is designed as a survival horror map and intended to be played with running disabled, which brings the player down to a much more human level of vulnerability. Combined with an initial lack of resources and a thick, heavy atmosphere, this vulnerability makes the map feel truly scary and pushes you to think carefully about how you play it.

 

The aforementioned atmosphere comes partly from lighting, partly from the sense of realism, partly from the uncertainty of your situation, and partly from the creepy ambient music, all of which work together really well. Mostly dark with a few internal lights still working and some stronger outdoor lighting, the base feels truly dead, and that mood combined with the survivalist nature of the gameplay makes every dark corner come alive with potential threat. You start out in a nearly empty barracks area without enough ammo and weaponry to combat all of the enemies in the immediate area, which forces you to explore quickly and try to find a way forward.

 

The design does feel slightly uneven to me, in that there are a couple of spots that are inordinately frustrating. The opener makes you shoot your way through a couple of Imps and a Demon in a very narrow, dark hallway, which is kind of a dick move when you're not expecting it and is most likely to cause you to restart the first time just because you have to react immediately to get through it. Early on, there's also a pitch-black (though thankfully pretty small) nukage maze with Spectres that almost made me ragequit the map. But as bad as those spots may sound, the rest of the map is nicely designed, with combat that's challenging and engaging as long as you respect the map's terms and play it without running. You always have just enough resources to keep pushing ahead and keep yourself alive, and the map encourages exploration and active secret hunting over trying to engage with all the opposition as soon as you encounter it. Each area you conquer feels like more of an accomplishment than it might in a normal Doom map, and each new section you discover feels all the more threatening for the danger of whatever it might contain in conjunction with the enemies you've likely left behind you. Toward the end of the map, the resources at your disposal start to even out more and you feel like you have more power over your situation, so you can go back through and stomp out anything you might have missed and engage with the last few fights/sections feeling like more of a badass, which is a satisfying way to conclude the map.

 

I think the survival horror concept is a pretty cool take on Doom's core gameplay, and Primary Excavation Site mostly executes it well. Although Dark Universe does the same thing better in many ways (and for the record, I also recommend playing DU with autorun disabled), Primary Excavation Site pushes you a lot harder in the early part of the map, which suits the style of design very well. I've played very little like it in Doom, mainly because Doomguy's overclocked speed makes it difficult to appreciate true horror, but I would be interested in seeing more maps designed this way.

Edited by Not Jabba

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Ah, years. They're all the same anyway, right?

...I mean, I don't know what you're talking about. The post clearly says 2018 and has definitely been that way forever.

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@Not Jabba

 

Hey Jabba! I am really glad you enjoyed the map. It seems like you played it exactly as I designed it to be played. I'm glad disabling running was the right choice.

 

What I wanted to achieve was combine the design principles of classic Doom and Doom 3. Too many Doom 3-inspired maps play too much like Doom 3 and too little like the base game. I am not very knowledgeable about how source ports work but I am in principle a vanilla/boom mapper. There are a few GZDoom features I find indispensable (such as aligning flats) but in principle, I like the stark, spartan beauty of vanilla and I can't say I'm crazy about slopes and fancy lighting. If I want those features I will just map for Quake.

 

Recently, I have decided to create a whole episode based on the principles developed in the map. One map is already finished and the next one is underway. I'm really kind of a slow mapper so it's going to take a while. The episode is going to contain 6 Tech Base maps, 2 Hell maps and 1 secret map. The map you played is going to be part of it too, as a mid-episode map though it makes me sad it won't have a pistol start as it was designed for it. I have also made a few slight but important changes to it though such as removing the Revenant at the start and visually improving the final area of the map. So if you liked this one, I'm sure you will like the next.

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@Not Jabba I loved reading your review! I always enjoy reading reviews or watching people play my maps, and yours was particularly fun and well written.

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@Not Jabba
A bit late to the party, but thank you so much for an in-depth review :)
I appreciate the feedback!

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Thanks for the review NotJabba! Not sure if I would've discovered Northern Powerhouse otherwise, I really love maps that change the palette like this one and Stardate 20x6. Always looking forward to seeing your in depth reviews on maps that haven't gotten much attention lately.

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@Not JabbaFor what it's worth, British politicians in recent times have used the term "Northern Powerhouse" to describe the latent economic potential of northern England and highlight the benefits of investing in its infrastructure, as it has multiple major cities and a lot of industry that have generally been neglected over the last 40-50 years. 

 

Although it has multiple cities, it also contains a lot of wild, generally inhospitable hills and near-mountains between the cities - a sheep standing on moorland, as seen in the titlepic, is a very common sight in the wilder rural parts of northern England.

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^yep :3 that's part of the point - they pay lip service to the importance of this part of the country but what they mostly wanna do is frack it and overfarm it to bits giggle. so the level is sort of a rant.

 

thanks for the great review notjabba

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Posted (edited)

The Quirky Domain by @FishyClockwork

A guest review by @Major Arlene

 

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What happens when non-Euclidian mapping meets a sense of humor and adventure? Well, you get something like The Quirky Domain, which is easily one of the most mind-blowing maps I’ve played to date. At first, you’re dropped into a gray-tinted world that seems dark and small, but you’ll soon be corrected on that. The portal tricks are subtle at first — a hole in the wall that’s a little bigger than what it may have been expected to be, a hallway that seems to get longer as you go down it, etc. The central gray building is full of tricks — don’t let its small size fool you, and never discount a window’s ability to hold an entire realm. Before you know it, you’re falling out of a pool on a ceiling and running through a maze of hallways, yet somehow never reaching a dead end or even having to take a moment to think about where you’re heading to — the world that FishyClockwork has created seems to simply open up without fanfare and with perfect timing and flow.
 
Eventually, you’ll reach a pyramid-shaped building that leads to an outdoor area — should seem simple enough, right? 

 

Absolutely not.

 

As you run through the cliffs and caverns, twisting and turning, things take a darker turn. Huge marble-faced buildings jut from the rock, holding the way to an escape — or so you hope. However, after emerging from the caverns, you’re met with a cleverly hidden switch. But you won’t be prepared for what happens when you press that switch — it’s bloody, it’s brutal, and it’ll leave you wondering:

 

What the hell was that?

 

FishyClockwork knows precisely how to keep the player interested — he holds them at arm’s length from the end goal without apology and makes them work hard to reach the end, but the payoff is usually rewarding. As you make your way through this insane and interesting and somewhat dark world, as it twists and turns deeper and deeper into madness, there’s only one question that will remain in your mind:

 

What will happen next?

 

Honestly, this type of mapping is my favorite — it’s unique and creates impossible worlds that still somehow feel like they’re rooted a bit in reality. If you’re looking for something that goes beyond Doom, definitely give this a play — there is much to explore in the realms of this mad and wonderful map. 

Edited by Not Jabba

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I remember Monuments of Mars instantly caught my attention in a way many of the later sets couldn't...though I don't recall which one out of the entire bunch looked (second) most appealing from a glance. I have long been a fan of 40oz mapping too. 2019 has brought more of these!

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Posted (edited)

Kill 'em With Kindness by Amber Graham

 

(Note: The textfile doesn't make this clear, but the map requires GZDoom with hardware rendering)

 

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Kill 'em With Kindness is more of a vignette than a playable map, but I happen to adore it. Consisting of a single small outdoor "room," it's basically just a quick opportunity to relax, see something cute, and put a smile on your face. The author -- Amber Graham, a UC Davis student who took a course on Doom modding as an art form -- set out to make something that was basically the opposite of Doom as we know it -- something soothing, friendly, and completely non-violent.

 

The result is essentially an interactive landscape painting: a little valley with a pond in it, everything visible right at the start, all the textures and objects hand-drawn and colored in a crayonesque style, with a rambling, gentle banjo tune playing in the background. One thing I really appreciate is the attention to detail -- not "detailing" in the usual sense (there's virtually none of that), but rather the environmental details, the sense that each object in the environment is unique and offers its own form of interaction. There's a dog that follows you around adoringly, wanting to be petted; a bird in a tree that pops out of its hole occasionally, flying away for awhile if you try to touch it but eventually coming back; a frog that either hangs out cheerfully above water or hides depending on how close you are to it; a perpetually jumping fish; a watering can you can pick up and use; and flowers that do a happy dance when you water them. All of this is enabled by some pretty clever modding that treats your hand and the watering can as "weapons" but rejiggers what would normally be monsters' pain and death states into something that feels more positive and has no connotations of pain or death whatsoever.

 

Aside from being totally adorable, I think this sense of mechanics-as-world-building is an interesting style of design, and I would guess that it's the result of developing an understanding of Doom modding piece by piece over the course of a semester while focusing on designing one small area. I think most of us who are interested in mapping would struggle to keep that same sense of having every element be its own unique piece of a larger world, given the larger amount of content we're aiming to deliver, but I think that we can still take away some useful lessons from it.

 

As Major Arlene mentioned in last year's Machaward writeup, Kill 'em with Kindness was part of a larger trend of non-violent Doom mods that also included Mr. Friendly and several other projects. Although KeWK is not the deepest of these pacifist Doom experiences, I really like the direction it took, building from its own setting rather than applying its new mechanics to existing maps. The only sad thing about Kill 'em With Kindness is that it's so small (although the self-contained, vignette-like nature works well for what it is). I would love to see something like this with a larger world to explore and even more interactive depth. 

Edited by Not Jabba

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