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Xfing

What's sometimes painful about Doom

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I'm not sure if any of you has ever had that feeling, but when playing a few particular levels from some fanmade Megawads (I can't recall which ones at the moment), I've experienced a certain feeling of disappointment, lack of fulfillment or realization of missed opportunities. That's because some levels (especially ones that have strayed from the atmosphere of the original games, in which case those feelings are largely alleviated), are so elaborate, beautiful and intricate that one can't help but want to immerse oneself in them and hope they would mean something more than just backdrops for slaughtering monsters. With levels this good, there is a certain longing for meaning - for a plot which isn't there, for a world to wade into. Take Strife for example - the level design is really decent for the Doom Engine (and particularly for 1996), but the world still feels alive and there still is a plot, which makes it much easier to get immersed. You have goals, there are characters with personalities, there are choices and consequences. In Doom on the other hand, the most beautiful levels serve no purpose other to give you a place to kill more demons in. And most of the time it's a good thing, but sometimes... yeah. Anyone else get this feeling?

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Not really, because I see every Doom map ever made as being part of a larger "Doom world" (no pun intended). No matter which wad you're playing, it's just a small region of a world that expands for many, many many miles.. A world which no one person could ever fully explore in their lifetime. I often get the feeling that I'm in "old Doom ruins" when I'm browsing through forgotten maps of yesteryear, a feeling like no other explorer has ended up here for quite a while.. It's a cool feeling!

 

Additionally, a handful of wads do give the player a story of some sort and have a clear sense of purpose, a definitive reason to keep moving forward beyond "this gameplay is fun", for those who want or need that sort of thing. Of the wads I've released, about 70% of them have a story and intermission texts and such, I like that sort of thing. Adds a layer of personality to the wad.

 

It's not mandatory though, I've also released wads that are pure level packs, in those cases I feel like it's just assumed that the story is the same or close to that of the real game. Other wads that lack story but are very distinct from Doom invite the player to craft their own narrative or explanations for various things. I think there's merit to the open-endedness of that approach.

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I can do without it. Most games (including a certain Doom 3) that do try and convey a story don't really do so in a particularly natural way, and even fewer can do it in a way that actually makes me invested in the story, so I'm not too bothered by its absence. I can appreciate a good story when it's given to me, but most the time you don't get anything more in-depth than "you are Doomguy and you have to kill the demons." Which is fine, because that means I can focus on the more personal stories like "I am David and this is my cat who I put into the level as a texture."

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Not exactly, because (whether intentional or not) the wads that put effort into their visuals end up having a plot baked right into them. At least from my point of view. Human hands made that beautiful wad and the author had to have thought up some plot or story in the process of making it, and I think that ends up bleeding into the work even if the author isn't explicitly trying to communicate a specific story to the player. And the player will pick up on that stuff and fill in the blanks.

 

The painful feeling you're talking about really only shows up when dealing with Oblige maps, where you know that regardless of how beautiful the map looks, it truly is soulless because it's just a computer randomly assembling patterns with no thought.

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What I mean is, when playing some maps I'm like "damn this looks good, shame it can't be Strife". In Strife the world lives and breathes (as much as that's possible with the Doom engine at least).

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  I suppose this talks about what players want from their games. For me, feelings of disappointment and lack of fulfilment usually come when i play most "AAA" games. They force bad plots and worse characterisation on the player and they all feel too corporate for me to enjoy them. There's too much exposition and too many obnoxious tutorials to skip. This applies to the newer doom titles, too. I partially agree with John Carmack when he said that story is not that important in a video game. Give me a couple of cutscenes total and and some environmental storytelling and im happy.

 

  What's really important is making the player feel immersed, and you can do that without loads of bad acting and forced exposition. All a doom wad needs is some little touches here and there that helps the player build a story in their head and you can achieve far more than some overwrought exercise in wordbuilding.

 

Edit; Doom 1 did all of this utterly perfectly.

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I hadn't really felt that way about DOOM wads. I feel like DOOM does better with more subtle storytelling, as cutscenes might make it feel a bit too clunky COUGHCOUGHDOOM3COUGHCOUGH. Although I do think it is possible to have some storytelling in DOOM and it not get in the way, it'd be fun to experiment with... but it'd have to be in small doses and really good. But in general, the game has a very simple goal; The UAC were dumbasses messing with portals. Demons are evil. Doomguy hates them and will destroy them. Really all we need to know when it comes to DOOM, really. I love storytelling in video games personally, especially in jRPGs, but it often bogs things down in DOOM. If someone can figure out to make a wad with just a sprinkle of it sporadically here and there, and not in large unskippable doses, I'm all for it. Otherwise, classic DOOM is fine the way it is. (Also I really need to try playing Strife, I hadn't yet).

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I get that feeling, but I don't think it's because anything is missing. My view is that if a Doom map has a powerful enough implied story to give you a sense of longing, then that's something that it's doing successfully.

 

Look at it this way: in Strife, you can interact with other people because other people exist. In Doom, you're the only one left. Every piece of someone else's story you encounter is something that's lost forever. All you can do is try to imagine who they were. It's colossally tragic; the emptiness is intentional.

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I see story in Doom as being similar to story in Dark Souls:  the high drama is over and you're wandering through the ruins.  The story that happened is implied by the background.  It's just even more minimal and bleak in Doom WADs since you typically don't have much narration and almost never meet other characters.  The use of second person in text screens feeds into this loneliness a lot.

 

Even the most abstract techbase does this stuff to an extent.  The base wasn't built by the demons.  It was built by people.  Some of those same people may populate it still but they're as changed as the landscape.  The setting implies a history that's already peaked.

 

You get a sense of this even in WADs with a jokier story like Ancient Aliens.  A large part of the joke is on you because, for whatever reason, you're totally alone.

 

Obviously there are other ways to do it, especially in more advanced formats.  And with stuff like UMAPINFO it's easier to nudge a story along with more text.  But I think that sense of post-apocalyptic loneliness will always be an important part of Doom.

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12 hours ago, Xfing said:

In Doom on the other hand, the most beautiful levels serve no purpose other to give you a place to kill more demons in.

exactly why i'm playing Doom! not that i want yet another DTS-T. ;-)

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Well, if that's something you value, sure. I have a lot of friends that get turned off by games when they don't get a sense of purpose for what they're doing, or don't feel any depth from the characters.

 

I'm ok with just taking in the environments, appreciating some well designed gameplay and overcoming the challenge, overall. One of the things i've always had fun doing while playing Doom is interpreting the environments and giving things meaning, be it lost jungle temples or architecture beyond human capabilities, so i like well made maps for what they are.

 

This kind of stuff will always be subjective, everyone values different things differently. Good plots and well written characters can enhance a game greatly, but having all these great settings to let your imagination wander about is a good thing in my opinion. I'd much rather have a great 'aesthetic' and no story at all than otherwise, if given the choice.

 

Shout-out to the Bridge Point level in HL2 since i just played that recently and it was really great. A military post in an abandoned, misty town near a massive, noisy metal construction like that was really cool. Also to Eviternity Map15, Cryonology, cause the more i think about that thing the more i like it.

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The best maps from an aesthetic stand point tell a small story on their own with the map design and even the combat design, and this isn't often explicitly state (the intermission text might a bit but often that doesn't seem like the case) so I get to more or less decide for myself what bit of story that is, so that's neat. I guess some maps do leave me wanting more of that story (as in more things done in that aesthetic) but I mean a good story does so too.

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I agree completely with OP but I would've worded it differently.

It's not meant as a criticism of Doom's simplicity, it's a desire to immerse oneself more deeply in the incredible environments people in this community make.

I actually more often feel this way in reverse. I see a beautiful environment in another game and think "I wish I could run a Doom level through this"

But I also think like OP sometimes, I'm in a Doom level and think how cool would it be if an RPG or RTS or even Call of Duty mission was in here, I'd be able to experience this environment in a completely different way.

 

This ties a little bit into the whole "games are easy now" debate.

Difficulty and gameplay are there to distract you from the fact that you're staring at pixels. When graphics got better this became less necessary.

Sometimes Doom demon slaying can do that, sometimes it doesn't quite make it there and that's ok.

 

One thing I do feel that helps with this is VR. It ups the immersion level a lot, and I think using one of the VR doom ports to go through some of these levels would scratch this itch a bit. I need to get GZ3Doom or something set back up.

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Back in the day it use to be painful watching the loading of large pwad on a minimum spec machine (or waiting for the nodes to build on your latest and greatest level).   Now, not much is painful other than getting textures added into a new level (painful for me anyways).

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I sometimes think this too and I think the reason is that as a creative tool, Doom allows you to create such striking and moody visuals with relatively simple techniques. Just some basic visual contrast can create an immersive environment in an engine which to me, still looks great, largely because of its unique gritty looks and occasional vibrant colours. You can really play interior decorator in a way, with how the engine allows for its own kind of mise en scéne when building environments, and make a level it's own compelling world. Every great WAD I've played has felt like it was a true extension of the original game because of this, all part of a wider whole.

 

The dichotomy of that and the game's core mechanics are really what makes it so compelling IMO. Maybe I'm thinking about it too much, and it's not that deep, I've been an art student so I lean toward viewing things in that way xD

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My dissapointment comes from realisation that people can make this beautiful worlds, sprites , even total conversions that are games by themselves. And i by this point can't. But on the other hand it give me push to begin study material, so one day i can make something of equal value.

 

Also yes, i feel that some levels would benefit from at least a little lore.

Edited by INfront95

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