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Why is Episode 1 so good?

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Posted (edited)

Episode 1 is the most beloved episode of the original 3-episode release of Doom, even though the hellish stuff hasn't even started appearing yet and the selection of enemies and weapons is quite limited. I know different people might have different reasons, but what's the consensus about the reasons for this episode's quality? Is it just Romero's architecture and geometry? I somehow doubt it. 

For me personally, Episode 1 evokes an atmosphere of unease and tension that I haven't gotten out of any other episode of the game - hell, probably any other FPS game, ever (with the possible exception of fragments of Descent and its spiritual successor, Overload with its grim and ominous story). Even though the episode is easy, and I know it's easy and there isn't going to be a technical challenge when playing it, there's always this nerve-wracking feeling that accompanies at least parts of this episode. Might be partly due to the selection of the music (the especially pulse-pounding tracks such as Dark Halls, Suspense or Demons on the Prey), might be partly due to the masterful use of flickering lights and unlit sectors... or it might simply be due to the fact that "less is more". It for some reason feels much more ominous to go through a mundane location such as a moon techbase, only to discover that something is terribly wrong as you go along, and start wondering what horrors await you once you get to hell. Well, the problem is once you get to hell, things are nowhere near as scary - in fact hell arguably feels like a cozy holiday resort, or at least beautiful and fun to hang around in. Phobos just feels desolate, sad, tense and worrying. I get genuinely shit scared when I go to fight the final two barons, even though they're just two barons and they fold when fed just five rockets apiece, with their attacks being trivial to dodge. And knowing full well that in other WADs (even in Doom 2) you go slaughtering these things by the dozens. But it's about the atmosphere and the buildup. I somehow get the impression that many modern mappers forego these things entirely and concentrate 100% on the gameplay instead. And yes, appropriate difficulty, lack of backtracking etc are very important, but what matters in the end is the whole experience and the emotions that accompany it, that's why Episode 1 was so awesome, even though it wasn't hard by any standard. 

And I just found out about Double Impact from the official client's addons section, which recaptures and even enhances these feelings in an amazing fashion - really glad that thing was made. Kudos to the creators!

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I think it has something most of the other levels for the original games lack - consistency. The individual levels all feel like part of a larger whole complex. I don't really get that feeling to the same degree in the other parts of Doom and Doom 2.

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E1 is so "good" because it's the first thing most people ever saw when they booted up the game for the very first time, and, as far as I'm aware, it is also the one and only episode to have been released as shareware... You had to pay for the rest of the product...

 

That being said... In terms of theme it is the most "consistent" episode, but it is also pretty much the least varied of them all...

 

Anyway, my point is that yes, E1 was "good", because it was meant to be the thing that got people to buy into the final product, but a lot of the "E1 = best episode" kind of talk might very well be due to the fact that it's people's first impression of the game, and it was the most widely available, too... For those reasons, I've always taken discussions about E1's supposedly high quality with a grain of salt...

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episode 1 was actually the last episode that they worked on. so that could be a reason why

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I think Episode 1 is awesome particularly because it feels like a good start. It's challenging enough for an introduction to the series, but it gives you time to learn and doesn't throw everything at you like the later episodes do. In later episodes, the demons throw everything at you cause they know you/Doomguy as a serious threat, but you're not really taken as seriously in the first episode. 

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I think its good primarily due to the fact that John Romero did the levels for it and not Sandy Petersen. Sandy's levels are kinda crap but its forgivable, given the time frame he was given to make them.

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Posted (edited)

Well designed tech-bases. Creative work. Great architecture and well designed gameplay. Also, the graphics and music totally matched the gameplay. The tone and atmosphere were spot on IMO.

I think E1M7 is the best of all time but i also really like E1M3 and E1M6.

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E1M1 SNES hits me in the feels cuz thats the first way i played Doom, then i tried GZDoom, and then my source port collection broke the mark of 25 ports (including vanilla and alpha game versions)

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Like some others said it really does feel like one of the most coherent stretches of Doom maps in the official releases. There is both so much more detail and consistency in the textures and architecture compared to E2-E3. One thing I like a lot is how Romero put down a lot of "window" like openings where you can peer into other rooms that connect, see secrets from a distance, or even some areas with monsters that are unreachable by the player. Sometimes you'll be able to see outside and some of the skybox but it still feels like you're imprisoned trying to escape these techbases. Even to this day when I replay E1 it's like, is there still more secrets tucked away in these bases to discover? They have a sense of claustrophobia and atmosphere I don't get at all in the other episodes.

 

If anyone hasn't played Fava Beans, I hit that up recently and it was so damn good. Holds up shockingly well and is chalk full of those good E1 vibes if you want more.

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It's just a tight and cohesive episode. It's a good mix of combat and exploration. Levels are easily understood and have good landmarks so you don't lose track of where you are or where you should go. The other episodes are also full of good if not better levels, but they're mixed in with lackluster levels as well. Episode 1 is a good time all throughout.

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It was brilliant. Romero mastered innovative layout and gameplay perfectly with puzzles here and there. I expect the same in his upcoming megawad. Sandy Petersen made E1M8.

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Posted (edited)

I think a lot of people have their own personal reasons, but if I were to cast a wide net, here’s why E1 has been beloved since release day: Accessibility, in more ways than one!

 

Think about it - E1 Runs on anything, is visually consistent, features great music that suits it well, and is easy enough to where most anyone can get the satisfaction of winning. It’s a perfect “Doom litmus test” - by the end, you not only feel satisfied and have come to understand how Doom’s enemies and world functions, but you also know if you want more, or if it’s not really for you.

 

Beyond that, nostalgia, even for people who came to Doom much later. It’s about 90% of people’s introduction to the game, so people who remain fans will always look back on it fondly.

 

Personally, once I got Doom2, the amount of time I spent playing E1 became “almost zero”, lol. So I’m not convinced the levels are actually much “better” than the others (once you are used to Doom’s gameplay), it’s just that they’re  easy enough to please newcomers and have a consistent visual style. The power of first impressions can’t be understated!

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1 hour ago, pcorf said:

It was brilliant. Romero mastered innovative layout and gameplay perfectly with puzzles here and there. I expect the same in his upcoming megawad. Sandy Petersen made E1M8.


Romero's making yet another one? Pls tell more :D

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1 hour ago, pcorf said:

It was brilliant. Romero mastered innovative layout and gameplay perfectly with puzzles here and there. I expect the same in his upcoming megawad. Sandy Petersen made E1M8.

Romero is the classic Doom god, no doubt about that. He will alway be my hero. And I still like the original DOOM levels better than the DOOM 2 levels.

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1 minute ago, CBM said:

Romero is the classic Doom god, no doubt about that. He will alway be my hero. And I still like the original DOOM levels better than the DOOM 2 levels.


Well I definitely love some Romero levels (e4m6, map15 particularly) but I don't get the resident opinion about Sandy's. They're just as quintessential to being what Doom is. When I hear Sandy, I think abstract star-like geometry and health boost potions dotted everywhere - both of which are among the most important thing classic Doom is remembered for (also I just realized how that happens to perfectly describe the final room of MAP09: The Pit, lol)

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18 minutes ago, Doomkid said:

Personally, once I got Doom2, the amount of time I spent playing E1 became “almost zero”, lol. So I’m not convinced the levels are actually much “better” than the others (once you are used to Doom’s gameplay), it’s just that they’re  easy enough to please newcomers and have a consistent visual style. The power of first impressions can’t be understated!

 

Yeah. Killing zombies and imps isn't the doom gameplay cycle, it is fodder killing cycle. Episode 1 plays more like a generic fps than other doom episodes, which is hilarious because it is always held up on a pedestal while making fun of other games full of hit scanners and imp type enemies.

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Mostly agree, although the utter lack of hand-holding in terms of navigation still separates it from much of what came later in the realm of FPS. The closest thing to tedious “waypoints” and such would be the keyed doors with coloured trim. Chaingunning fodder is also a joy that shouldn’t be understated, but that alone isn’t enough to carry a wad, imo.

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i never liked e1 that much the weapon selection is way too limited for my taste and they give you way too much ammo i always have 100 shells when i am playing to the point that i have to actively ignore the shotgun to use other weapons

i think e2 is way better

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E1 was not my introduction to Doom. I started Doom 2 first. It was the very first FPS I played, and back in 1995, on the Mac, the only other ones were Wolfenstein and the Marathon games. I've never played Wolfenstein, and I did not like the Marathon games, in spite of the many technological superiorities Marathon 2 had over Doom. So Doom 2 it was!

 

I ran into trouble with Chaingunners and Spectres on Map03. I died over and over again and could not complete the map. I came up with the idea of downloading Doom shareware and playing it as a sort of boot camp so I could get good enough to keep playing Doom 2, and it worked for me. At the time, I really didn't think anything more of E1. It was just a means to an end. But somehow, it lingered with me. There was something about it that Doom 2 didn't really have, and for me, a lot of it is the joy of secret hunting. It wasn't simply that secrets existed, it's that they were sly and often chained and frequently made interconnections between map areas. This type of secret is more fun for me than pushwalls leading to an item closet. The secrets also contained more combat in many cases. This wasn't an E1 exclusive, but it seemed to be more prevalent in E1 than any other episode. And on top of that, it's IMO the best-looking episode, and with the greatest soundtrack, too.

 

E1 ultimately had a bigger influence on my mapping than any other episode, as I eventually moved more to a Knee Deep/Fava Beans approach that ultimately led to -- ahem -- Shotgun Symphony -- my personal ode to that style of Doom mapping, except for the Doom 2 levels of violence. I understand people being disappointed by the limited bestiary of Knee Deep In The Dead, but the the episode is a teaser to sell you the full game, so you can fight the rest of the monsters. Pretty clever. ;)

 

 

 

 

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4 minutes ago, Steve D said:

E1 was not my introduction to Doom. I started Doom 2 first. It was the very first FPS I played, and back in 1995, on the Mac, the only other ones were Wolfenstein and the Marathon games. I've never played Wolfenstein, and I did not like the Marathon games, in spite of the many technological superiorities Marathon 2 had over Doom. So Doom 2 it was!

 

I ran into trouble with Chaingunners and Spectres on Map03. I died over and over again and could not complete the map. I came up with the idea of downloading Doom shareware and playing it as a sort of boot camp so I could get good enough to keep playing Doom 2, and it worked for me. At the time, I really didn't think anything more of E1. It was just a means to an end. But somehow, it lingered with me. There was something about it that Doom 2 didn't really have, and for me, a lot of it is the joy of secret hunting. It wasn't simply that secrets existed, it's that they were sly and often chained and frequently made interconnections between map areas. This type of secret is more fun for me than pushwalls leading to an item closet. The secrets also contained more combat in many cases. This wasn't an E1 exclusive, but it seemed to be more prevalent in E1 than any other episode. And on top of that, it's IMO the best-looking episode, and with the greatest soundtrack, too.

 

E1 ultimately had a bigger influence on my mapping than any other episode, as I eventually moved more to a Knee Deep/Fava Beans approach that ultimately led to -- ahem -- Shotgun Symphony -- my personal ode to that style of Doom mapping, except for the Doom 2 levels of violence. I understand people being disappointed by the limited bestiary of Knee Deep In The Dead, but the the episode is a teaser to sell you the full game, so you can fight the rest of the monsters. Pretty clever. ;)

 

 

 

 

 

Gotta agree about the secret quality in E1. Telegraphed secrets, pass-through shortcut secrets, whole big areas as secrets as opposed to "item closets" as you put it... all of that really does go a long way. Picking up that armor in E1M1 or exploring the outside perimeters of E1M2 and E1M7 feels very rewarding for some reason, much more than finding most secrets in Doom 2, as it happens.

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Posted (edited)
18 minutes ago, Steve D said:

as I eventually moved more to a Knee Deep/Fava Beans approach that ultimately led to -- ahem -- Shotgun Symphony -- my personal ode to that style of Doom mapping,

 

while learning the 'correct way' of creating maps, the tech details about map making and so fourth.. I still feel that people should let mappers make the maps they way they want to make them even if that means they have to break some of the 'sacred rules' like... no tight corridors... no hitscan spam... etc

 

if or when a mapper eventually gains enough experience to find a way to break the rules yet still make the maps function and be fun then I do not think it should be looked down upon...

 

also I agree with what you said about the secrets in doom 1 being very good.

 

and ultimately, if people do not like the maps from a particular mapper, then they can just decide not to play them.

 

I have discovered that my personal taste in custom levels are often different from what is considered 'canon'..  like wads and mods that get caco awards and such... while I like many of them, there are also some that do not fit my personal preferences and that should be okay too

 

people always always seem to misunderstand a persons personal preference with that person having some kind of weird misplaced and undeserved arrogance and god complex that often never existed in the first place

 

its like when I tell people I do not really like or watch football all that much... then people treat me like I have the plague or something or tell me that I will never be as good at football as some random famous soccer player...

 

and I'm like.... okay...thats fine dude... I never wanted to be good at playing soccer anyways?!

Edited by CBM

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I never cared for E1 half as much as some people. To me, techbase has almost become a "generic" theme. E1 is nothing more than some consistent and decent techbase maps. E1 also fails to represent the hellish atmosphere of DOOM, which I find to be more interesting. In terms of quality, E1 is just a set of typical techbase maps. People hold it in high regards mainly because it became iconic and it's the first thing they think of when they think of DOOM. As others said, it was free, easily available, and popular. Therefore it was a new experience for people. Therefore people have nostalgia for it. Therefore it clouds their vision. Blah blah blah and so on and so forth.

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The prospect of more cool stuff to come, seeing further into the invasion, the build up. The forced pistol start on E2M1. This was back then though, now its more of a simple gateway to access some great maps, chapter's and cyberbutt goodness. I always look forward to reaching E4 for some weird reason. 

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25 minutes ago, Swordofdanu said:

The prospect of more cool stuff to come, seeing further into the invasion, the build up. The forced pistol start on E2M1. This was back then though, now its more of a simple gateway to access some great maps, chapter's and cyberbutt goodness. I always look forward to reaching E4 for some weird reason. 

i always stop after reaching E4 not because i dislike the maps but because i consider it something separate from doom just like how i see no rest for the living

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15 minutes ago, omalefico32x said:

i always stop after reaching E4 not because i dislike the maps but because i consider it something separate from doom just like how i see no rest for the living

E4, Master Levels, and NRFTL have always felt like bonus content to me. They are basically extra maps using the same resources as the base games. Final Doom contains a bunch of new textures at least.

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Well, it HAD to be. Can you imagine if Shareware Doom shipped with E3 instead...?

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57 minutes ago, omalefico32x said:

i always stop after reaching E4 not because i dislike the maps but because i consider it something separate from doom just like how i see no rest for the living

That's fair enough, I think by the time I got around to playing all the way through properly, TFC was already part of the whole package, I'd only had access to console Doom to this point. 

I'm going to include Sigil in my next playthrough cus why not. 

I enjoyed no rest until I found out there's no ammo pack (unless I missed it) I've always treated that as a add on. 

 

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