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New PWAD containing single player map & graphics for Doom 2 - 'Rienzi'

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I have just released a new patch WAD for Doom 2, which is now available to download from my web site:
This is something of a personal milestone because I started designing it when I was still at sixth form college (in 1999, or thereabouts) and I haven't released a brand-new Doom WAD since 'Fish!' in May 2003!

I did all of the authoring on an Acorn Risc PC using Lee Noar's port of DETH (http://www.leenoar.ukos.com/deth ) and playtesting in R-Comp Interactive's port of Doom. At one time I intended it as my entry in Acorn User magazine's Doom WAD design competion - but narrowly missed the deadline for submissions by nearly a decade!

This is a very detailed map with a volcanic theme and several specifically-designed graphic elements, which was mainly designed for a single player (although it has untested multiplayer and deathmatch start positions). You must descend through caves and potholes to the innermost sanctum of a cyberdemon before making your escape from the bowels of the earth via the crater of a volcano.

The hostile environment can be almost as challenging as the minions bent upon your destruction: if something looks hot then it is probably painful to some extent! In most places falling into lava is fatal because there isn't anywhere suitable to climb out. There are also a couple of traps where you must act quickly to save yourself.

I have tried to design the map so that gameplay isn't completely linear: there is no single correct order in which to explore, and more than one method of tackling the few set-piece encounters with powerful monsters. You won't always be in possession of the ideal weapon with which to fight an enemy - that would be too easy! Availability of ammunition is also limited, so you may have to wield a chainsaw on 'ultra-violence'. You don't actually have to kill the cyberdemon to reach the exit, but failure to do so would likely result in your dishonourable expulsion from the Society of Armed Volcanologist Exorcists (SAVE).

My original inspiration came from an audio cassette adaptation of Jules Verne's classic tale 'Journey To The Centre of the Earth', which I enjoyed as a child. It featured Wagner's Rienzi overture as incidental music, from which this WAD got its name (rather than any direct link to the medieval Italian politician Cola di Rienzi).

In several locations my map is more complex than typical of Id Software's original maps, and therefore the game may run jerkily on slower computers. I am new to the world of Windows source ports and therefore I was disappointed to discover that DoomLegacy's software renderer doesn't support high colour video modes nor texture filtering (unlike Acorn Doom) but does a better job than its OpenGL renderer - which leaves unsightly gaps between polygons and fails with error messages like "polygon size of... exceeds max value of 256 vertices" in one of the more complex areas. Is this kind of thing par for the course, or is there something wrong with my node builder?

Any feedback would be much appreciated. However, I used the maximum number of sectors allowed by DETH (it crashes when saving a map with more than 511), so extending the map or adding more detail would be out of the question!

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Nice map. Normally I'd find a map this easy a little boring, but all the lighting and extra detail had me eager to keep exploring your little cavern system.

First thoughts in regards to what was missing: music. And... that was about it, really.

Also, after opening up your map in doom builder, it discovered almost 800 unused sidedefs, and 2 unused sectors. I know unused sectors can be a problem for some node builders, though I'm not sure if those extra sidedefs are a problem or not. (Someone with more mapping experience than me might be able to tell you.)

I tested it in Zdoom (software), and it seemed fine, minus one slight visual glitch down one cavern corridor. (Not sure what caused it.)

Anyway, thumbs up from me, I rather like your detailing methods :)

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Hi Insane_Gazebo,

Thanks for your feedback - I'm particularly pleased that you appreciated the lighting and detail because those aspects took me longer to implement than I dare think about!

When I first started designing Doom WADs I didn't bother aligning textures on neighbouring sidedefs at all. Then I started aligning textures obsessively - but only with each other. More recently I've begun designing maps *around* particular textures (as in this case) and it turned into a bit of a psychosis. I don't think I'll be doing any more WAD editing in the near future. :-)

Your comment that "normally I'd find a map this easy a little boring" is funny in juxtaposition with my younger brother's indignant assertion that "it is, sadly, impossible" and "a shotgun with twelve shells against a Hell Knight in a confined space? Are you INSANE!?" I guess it isn't possible to please everybody, and you give me confidence that I didn't completely misjudge the difficulty level.

I was inspired to make another attempt to get Doom Builder running on Windows Vista - it had been complaining about a missing DLL but using Google I quickly managed to locate it and fix the errors in my WAD that you reported. The 3D editing mode is jaw-dropping and looks incredibly useful compared to the primitive editor that I've been using. However, I see that it suffers from similar problems with gaps between polygons as Doom Legacy's OpenGL renderer, which is a shame.

I have uploaded a new version of RIENZI.WAD to my web site, which utilises the redundant sector IDs, gets rid of the unused sidedefs and fixes a few other minor issues (texture alignment and monsters stuck with deathmatch start positions).

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I have made some changes to my 'Rienzi' WAD to make it more playable and less liable to run slowly or exceed static limits. (I failed in the latter goal - certain areas of the map still suffer from 'Hall of mirrors' in Jeffrey Doggett's source port http://jeffd.drobe.co.uk - probably too many visible segs.)

Architecturally, the only obvious changes are that the BFG is now somewhat inaccessible (lowered by a switch) and I have redesigned the steps up to the cathedral's balconies (to block the line of sight between inside and outside). There is also a new secret sector which is intended to give cowardly players a nasty surprise, and I have fixed a misaligned texture near the exit switch.

After trying various node builders, I settled on Marc Rousseau's ZenNode. It seems to produce the best overall results, but only when using the '-n2' option ('Minimize BSP depth'). The default algorithm ('-n1') produces a massive glitch in the volcano crater! Colin Reed and Lee Killough's BSP and Randy Heit's ZDBSP produce minor glitches in different places (vertical columns of pixels filled with unbounded floor/ceiling texture). I find fiddling around with node builders and verifying that they produce acceptable results for the whole level to be the most frustrating aspect of WAD design!

Despite feedback that the level was too easy, I have actually made it slightly easier so that my brother and others who aren't Doom gods can enjoy playing (I kept dying despite knowing what was coming). There are 70 additional health points and I have redistributed both health and ammunition bonuses to avoid unduly penalising certain route decisions. There are fewer revenants on all skill levels (being attacked by five on a precipitous staircase with no cover was just silly). I also got rid of the lost souls in the volcano crater because being obstructed or attacked by monsters far above or below is grossly unfair!

The ratio of monster hitpoints to maximum ammo damage has been reduced on all skill levels (from 0.504 to 0.483 on 'Ultra-violence'). However, ammunition is still fairly limited and I sometimes find myself hacking my way to the exit switch with the chainsaw! I suppose what is a sensible ratio depends partly on the level design: The player is more likely to waste ammo fighting at long range; conversely, monster placement which tends to promote in-fighting would save ammo.

Any more feedback welcome, as always:

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Last minute second thoughts - there are only 60 additional health points now. It's a tough balancing act, for sure! :-)

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I haven't played through the new version but I do recall this having a good difficulty level for players who are a bit more experienced than the IWAD levels allow for, but not exactly Doom gods. That's pretty much me so it was spot on.

As far as looks go, it's amazing. At 8662 sidedefs with that precision of detail and alignment I can't believe you didn't make this in Doom Builder. You use many aspects so well that others usually get wrong, things like darkness, tight areas, and acute angles all work really well in this map in both environment and detail. The final room is quite breathtaking!

What ruined it for me was the Revenant snipers at Thing 30 and Thing 136. They're presented over 800 units away in an area with pretty much no cover and plenty to distract your attention or block you from rushing them. An almost guaranteed homing missile death is not fun, I ragequit at this point.

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Thanks for your kind words about my map design. I didn't realise at the time how masochistic my choice of editor was. I remember spending several solid days just on the corridor with the fissure and broken walls, and I was never quite satisfied with the result. (I'm pretty sure what I originally planned would require an impractical number of sectors for five rows of bricks, but the main problem was that I kept falling foul of the relatively coarse vertex coordinate system.)

I did a lot of sketches beforehand and made many notes on paper, which compensated slightly for not being able to preview the architecture in 3D. However it was still a major headache!

I'm sorry that the revenants at Thing 30 and Thing 136 ruined it for you. They aren't present on skill levels ITYTD/HNTR. ;-) Seriously, though, I was aware that this is one of the hardest parts of the map. By this time the player should have the rocket launcher (and maybe plasma rifle too). There is no perfect strategy but I find that the best tactic is a headlong rush followed by two rockets at close range, then run madly back into the tunnel.

What remedy would you suggest to the map design, short of removing the revenants? It might look very crude if I put a couple of pillars to provide cover, because of the height of this cave. However it might be possible to do something a bit nicer with the two free sectors that I have left. Unfortunately the new secret room with the (deaf) chaingun guys relies rather on lines of sight that would probably be obstructed by any new pillars.

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Ah, but the rest of the map would be too easy on skill 2 ;)

I would probably choose not to use Revenants in that sort of unreachable sniping area. Hell Knights would provide sufficient damage risk without being too difficult to kill, Barons would be a bit more of a challenge, especially considering the Lost Souls spawned by the Pain Elemental by the time you got to the Barons would probably make Rocket Launcher usage a bit more risky and/or force you to waste Plasma (which conversely may upset your ammo balance). Mancs may be a bit too mean, especially considering there's already one on the ground. 6 Manc projectiles plus Lost Souls would be a real intense situation. A pair of Cacodemons in place of each Revenant could provide a challenge requiring quick movement and clever weapon usage, and also add a bit of height variation to the battle.

You could also allow the Revenants to walk down to where the existing Mancubus is, that way the player has the chance to either infight them with the Manc or at least lure them into the tunnel where homing rockets can be dodged and the monsters dispatched with SSG. If you wanted to block off the passages, or fill them with doors which only open from the inside, to force the player to enter the center door then that's easy done.

Of course I'm just one player who finds one area hard. There are plenty of people both worse at Doom and better at Doom than me. If you are happy with it then don't change on account of my whinge :)

Design-wise, I can imagine how time-consuming it is to make such a level, even moreso in an older style editor. It's quite a loss for us all that you find it discouraging in regards to making future maps, as you've obviously got a good grip on theming, varied design and your difficulty level and style of traps are really enjoyable. Don't be afraid to force yourself to work on Grid 16 and focus on gameplay instead of aligning textures. I think I speak for alot of people when I say we'd rather see more great playing maps with consistent (if not a bit classic-styled) detail rather than just one map with a very high detail level. Especially if they are all as good as this one!

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