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Melon

Playing IWAD levels from pistol start

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Nothing in this post will be even remotely ground-breaking for all you long-time Doom fans, but I feel like I need to say it anyway.

First some background. I've been a longtime fan of watching speed demos, and I felt it was finally time that I manned up and started trying to play some hard wads myself, so as a warm-up I thought I'd play through the official Doom levels on Ultra-violence again. I also decided that to make it a bit more interesting, I'd play every level from a pistol start. Sure, it'll be a bit more challenging, but it won't be that much different will it?

Wow.

It's as if they're completely different wads. My opinion on various levels has U-turned over the course of a weekend. I'm experiencing a whole new world of gameplay, and it's exhilarating. I was not aware of the sheer extent that carrying over weapons, ammo, armour and probably some extra health has on completely trivialising or flat-out eliminating a lot of strategy and set-pieces. For example, in E3M4 House of Pain, you start off facing demons with only a rocket launcher, and the encounter is trivial if you enter with a shotgun and safely kill them that way.

The non-linearity of the levels never used to impress me that much, it felt like you were stumbling around until you finally found what you were looking for. From a pistol start, it turns into a hunt to find weapons and ammo while enemies slowly surround you from all directions. The route planning involved in a lot of levels, most notably MAP08 Tricks and Traps, was not something I used to have to deal with, and it was great fun weighing up the positives and negatives of each path.

The biggest shocker for me was probably MAP16 Suburbs. Coming on from MAP32 Grosse used to result in me starting maxxed out with cells, and so I'd BFG the arch-ville, easily take on all of the enemies in each building and then wander around until I found where I was supposed to go. I thought the level was a bit dull. Compare that to only having 40 bullets and a chaingun to my name whilst projectiles are flying from every direction and nowhere is safe, the arch-ville hunting me down and the realisation that the only other weapon in reach was a simple shotgun residing behind a mancubus on a small ledge and it turned into some of the most fun I've ever had in Doom (I didn't know about the super-shotgun secret!). It's incredible.

Sandy Petersen as a level designer has transformed from "that guy who made The Chasm" to a really clever and cunning designer who worked hard on creating a unique experience for each level and resource management.

I know I'm 16 years too late on this but if you haven't played the official levels from pistol start on UV yet you really should. It's just so much better in every way (MAP09 The Pit can suck a dick though, Sandy can't always get it right).

I've not finished going through Doom 2 yet and am planning on tackling TNT and Plutonia next in the same way. I imagine the latter will be quite the eye-opener.

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I certainly enjoy playing levels from a pistol start more than I do playing them successively from start to finish, and precisely for the reasons you have stated. In addition to which, I really feel as though the Pistol becomes a more interesting weapon in the arsenal to use merely because of its having to be relied upon at the onset of each level. On the flip side though, I’m sort of at odds with the idea of completing each level only to have everything I've gathered thus far tossed aside, so I compensate for it by incorporating both possible starting methods into my play; pistol starting only upon death and saving the game only when I intend to come back at a later time.

I might consider going through the IWADs again exclusively using pistol starts, if only to experience that additional strategic dynamic. I'm surprised I haven't tried it out already, to be honest.

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st.alfonzo said:

In addition to which, I really feel as though the Pistol becomes a more interesting weapon in the arsenal to use merely because of its having to be relied upon at the onset of each level.


Usually this isn't the case. Many well balanced levels will offer the player a myriad of different routes to obtain better weapons immediately. The only caveat here is that it would require prior knowledge of the map. Perhaps I'm too entrenched in the speedrunner's thought process, but unless a map specifically forces one to use a pistol at the start (SoD Map33 comes to mind, but even then, one could take the lift back up to kill the 3 imps), I would almost never consider using the pistol.

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Good post/thread. The gameplay balance is a feature of the iwads (and a lot of the major pwads) that a lot of people overlook. I can easily imagine this coming as a revelation to someone who has previously carried weapons from one map to the next.

Just one thing:

Melon said:

It's just so much better in every way (MAP09 The Pit can suck a dick though, Sandy can't always get it right).

Are you playing this map in a port (or with settings) that doesn't enforce the limit of 21 lost souls (i.e. pain elementals won't produce lost souls if there are more than 20 already alive in the map)? If so, that will be throwing off the balance of this map.

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I commend you for the effort and congratulate you on finding the secret of epic doom playing. Pistol starting really completely changes the game, especially on multi-map wads. The best part is, all maps were made with a pistol start in mind(or should be).

I remember when I first started playing, using saves and loads and hoarding ammo/health. After about MAP10 of Doom2 I would start each map with 200/200 and full ammo. I would pass up a megasphere and carefully aim to not waste ammo; once map was clear I would go back and stock up for next map. It was basically IDFA for every map. No need to conserve ammo and can recklessly rampage all the way.

Next step I suggest pwads such as the classic vanilla megawads. The careful planning of what gun to grab or which monsters to wake up while grabbing that gun is what makes doom so fun. Dieing and smashing space is all part of the game.

One last thing I like is full wad runs. Its basically carrying over all items and health, but cannot die. MAP01-MAP30 with no save or loads or dieing. If I die I start back on MAP01 and treat the entire wad as a single map.

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Melon said:

[...] I thought I'd play through the official Doom levels on Ultra-violence again. I also decided that to make it a bit more interesting, I'd play every level from a pistol start. Sure, it'll be a bit more challenging, but it won't be that much different will it? [...]

If you have any of the old console-Doom versions that use a password system, and you want a little more of a challenge, try these special passwords that start you at the highest skill level with only 25% health and an empty pistol:
PlayStation or Sega Saturn Doom
PlayStation Final Doom
Doom 64 (a.k.a. the "Watch Me Die Faster!" skill level. ;)

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st.alfonzo said:

pistol starting only upon death and saving the game only when I intend to come back at a later time.


That's usually my standing too. My rules change with the difficulty of the wad and/or how generous the mapper is with ammo. Wads like HR, AV, and SoD however, gotta be played with the ammo and weapons I accumulate since the beginning. Otherwise I'm hopelessly getting my ass kicked on a single level until i quit.

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There should be a competition where people complete Plutonia on UV with the realism rules and where you have to start every level from a pistol start, and if you die you start at map 1 again.

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Sigvatr said:

There should be a competition where people complete Plutonia on UV with the realism rules and where you have to start every level from a pistol start, and if you die you start at map 1 again.


I'm in.

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Vaporizer said:

ok ok wand start then.

What do you call a Hexen pistol start? A fistormaceorwand start? :p

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Grazza said:

Just one thing:
Are you playing this map in a port (or with settings) that doesn't enforce the limit of 21 lost souls (i.e. pain elementals won't produce lost souls if there are more than 20 already alive in the map)? If so, that will be throwing off the balance of this map.

I'm playing in PRBoom+ in order to try and get used to it in the event I would want to record demos in the future (and to make the gameplay more "vanilla" than GZDoom to get the full experience as intended). I just checked the settings and the lost souls limit is off, so I guess that was the problem. I'll have to try it again with the limit on. Thanks.

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Melon said:

" to get the full experience as intended"
"I just checked the settings and the lost souls limit is off, "


I just use -complevel. Using a complevel automatically sets those kind of settings properly. It can make each map behave exactly as it was intended. I read wad's text file for version author lists. If no version is listed I use date of release. Something released in 1994 will be -complevel 2.

Look in usage.txt that comes with pr+ for the list of complevels.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Versions_and_ports_of_Doom

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So I went back and played The Pit with complevel 2, and it was way more enjoyable. Deciding when to go for the BFG and as such make the pain elementals start becoming a threat added a nice layer of strategy.

MAP19 The Citadel is kicking my ass though. It was pretty easy when I had guns...

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Melon said:

Sandy Petersen as a level designer has transformed from "that guy who made The Chasm" to a really clever and cunning designer who worked hard on creating a unique experience for each level and resource management.

:D


Hehe, yeah, it took me over halfway through my Dooming career (to present day) to get around to do this, and I have to say it's so much more fun (plus being able to pick whichever level you want is a great feeling). Done it with Hacx and Heretic, too, but never got around to braving Plutonia from pistol-only just yet ('course, I've only recently discovered my love for that particular IWAD anyway -- funny how I'm still new to so many Doomy things).

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I've been inadvertently pistol starting maps while tweaking my weapon mods to the point that, when I wanted to play through Icarus in succession, I ended up pistol starting a bunch of it out of order, and not finishing many maps. I'd like to be able to just play through a megawad with a port option forcing the pistol on each next map, instead of IDCLEV (you miss the intermission/map name) or the mapper forcing a death-slide.

I agree it is more fun, because finding the shotgun or chaingun is actually an event to celebrate, instead of a boring ammo source.

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Melon said:

So I went back and played The Pit with complevel 2, and it was way more enjoyable.

Glad to hear it. If you go back and play map09 on Hurt Me Plenty, you'll notice a surprising difference.

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phi108 said:

I'd like to be able to just play through a megawad with a port option forcing the pistol on each next map, instead of IDCLEV (you miss the intermission/map name) or the mapper forcing a death-slide.

Make yourself a copy of the Doom II mapinfo from ZDoom, but add resethealth and resetinventory keywords to each map. Load that modified mapinfo along with your megawad. Congratulations, you are playing with a port feature forcing a pistol start on each next map. :p

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I think you suggested that the last time I posted about it, whenever that was, but I was lazy and forgot. Thanks again, I'll give it a try on the next megawad.

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I started doing this while playing through pwads maybe six months ago. It really livened up the experience but the real watershed for me was playing through congestion 1024 with pistol starts on uv. I don't begrudge anyone for carrying over, it's just removed what had been a creeping banality in my gameplay.

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I just tried MAP16 for the first time in a long time from a pistol start. I started off collecting the few shells littered around the outside, grabbed the shotgun and soulsphere from the mancubus platforms near the outside, grabbed the blue key then proceeded to take refuge in the houses in very center and unloaded on the monsters through the windows and doorways as they flooded the neighborhood.

Am I playing the map right? I hope so because that was REALLY fun

EDIT: hmm.. upon playing it a few times, I found that this map really allows the most versatility of all the doom maps.

One thing I noticed about the map in general, is that it has almost all of the weapons. However, Sandy puts the weapons in one spot, and the ammo for it in a totally different spot. All the resources are really scattered about, and even after the preliminary knowledge that the "super invasion" happens after you grab the yellow key, the territory is still pretty dangerous given the revenants and archviles hiding in inopportune places.

You really have to plan out your "survival kit" in order of priority, scoping the map for your most important resources before touching the yellow key. After trying many times, situations like dying after running out of shotgun shells, I'd be like "man I wish i remembered to get the shotgun shells from that cave earlier" or "I should have cleared out that garage with the imps in it ahead of time" or "maybe i should have gotten that berserk pack in case this happens again"

It really allows you to make your own plans and blame defeat on your own decision making instead of bullshit traps that you can't really make the best preparations for wihtout knowing about them ahead of time. I'm gonna keep trying MAP16 a few more times until i get it right. I think I'm living the same experience Melon is having at the moment.

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Catoptromancy said:
One last thing I like is full wad runs. Its basically carrying over all items and health, but cannot die. MAP01-MAP30 with no save or loads or dieing. If I die I start back on MAP01 and treat the entire wad as a single map.

Me too, although I think dying is fine, so that if you die, you pay the price of losing your arsenal. When people say their game is being watered down by ammo accumulation, it's mainly because they are using saves. Another thing to avoid is being too cautious. Some caution to avoid dying is fine, but if things start getting dull, one can liven them up by being more aggressive. The more generous a map or level set, the harder one should push forward. This makes maps of a variety of difficulties interesting in different ways. I often play full episodes progressively, even when I'm completely unfamiliar with the map set, but save full 30 level runs for sets I know well. I also like pistol starting, of course, which gives a shorter, more precise experience.

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40oz said:

I think I'm living the same experience Melon is having at the moment.

Yes I'm experiencing something similar to that. :)

I think that the most fun is coming from the exploratory phase that my attempts take before I eventually beat the level. Obviously I've played the levels before, but they change drastically when you're having to hunt around for weapons and ammo, and I don't mind dying numerous times as I'm having to rethink the paths I take and what enemies to spend the precious ammo on and when. Being forced to choose your fights definitely makes the enemies more dangerous, and the lack of powerful weapons makes even the humble cacodemon a reasonable threat, something that's rarely the case in Doom2 when you're packing a supershotgun all the time.

I don't know if I'd have anywhere near as much fun if I were to try these levels again from pistol start now that I've beaten them once that way and know what to do. Fortunately, there's no shortage of Doom levels these days.

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I always pistol start!It's really one of the best ways to play a wad.Of course this doesn't apply to hubs or levels that weren't designed with pistol start in mind.

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I've finished all the levels from Doom 2 now. I'd say that the city levels towards the middle were definitely the hardest, either that or I'd improved so much by the end of them that the rest didn't seem like such a challenge.

Except Barrels of Fun. Screw that level.

I'm not sure where to go next on my pistol-start explorations. I was going to do TNT Evilution, but I got a few levels in and wasn't really enjoying it. I've not yet played Hell Revealed, so I think I'm going to dive into the deep end and start there.

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