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Phmlwep - a dehacked (.bex) gameplay mod for slaughter enthusiasts

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Quick sum up:

There is no new map, this is just gameplay tweaks.

Similar mod in spirit as the slaughterguns idea thread Xaser posted one year ago. This aims to buff some of the lower tier weapons so there's more options. Also, there's some monster changes here and there.


phmlwepV3 download

[edit 14/12/14: removed dead links]


phmlwep.wad has all the changes listed below.
phmlwep_comp.wad tries to keep maximum compatibility with any map, so monster size changes or super subjective stuff are removed.

phmlwep_zdoom.wad and phmlwep_zdoom_comp.wad are respective DECORATE versions of the above wads (recommended for ZDoom compatible ports, same changes but less intrusive)

Now have a text file copypaste dump for the long version / explanation:

//---- WEAPONS --------

The holy trinity of SSG, RL and BFG dominates slaughter play. Other weapons are at best reduced to niche uses (i.e. sniping), often discarded as soon as you get one of the main three guns.

Going from that, you have two options. Bring the upper tier weapons down in line, or give the lower tier ones a boost.

The latter choice seems preferable here, for several reasons:
1) Slaughter gameplay is for the most part based on those three weapons. The goal isn't to create an entirely new experience, but rather to improve on the existing one.
2) Changes to weapons getting little use take less time to assimilate than changes to your bread and butter arsenal. Additionally, buffs are more satisfying than nerfs.

As to how to do that exactly, again there's several options. Speeding up animations can mess with the feel of the game, and creating new weapons can clash with the current arsenal. This mod will try to change numbers more than behavior.

There is also the issue of switching weapons. With vanilla slaughter, there's little concern on that front. No overlapping slots between SSG, RL and BFG, and the SSG has priority over SG. About the most annoying thing you face is the swap to chainsaw when you want to use your berserk fist, but even this can be avoided by avoiding chainsaw pickups entirely, the use of that weapon being anecdotal in most slaughter maps.

With that in mind, here's a look at each weapon slot and the proposed changes.

// Slot 1

Fist: poor without berserk, but OK with it, doing about half SSG damage per hit, but with much faster firing rate. It may not be quite where it should be; melee range makes things tricky, and so does the blockmap bug. Making it a double hit could work. To be honest, I'm inclined not to muck with it and leave it as a desperation weapon.
-> no change

Chainsaw: too little damage, interferes with the fist.
-> removed

// Slot 2

Pistol: nigh pointless in slaughter maps. Replaced with the standard shotgun. Compared to the SSG, not only the SG deals less damage but it is also less ammo efficient. To fix that, this shotgun uses bullet ammo. This makes it a good fallback weapon, provided you haven't spent all your bullets on the chaingun.
(Why not give it infinite ammo? It causes weird bugs.)
-> pistol becomes shotgun, still uses bullet ammo

// Slot 3

Shotgun: replaced with Super-Shotgun, so IDFA/IDKFA users don't end up with two different versions of a shotgun and one less efficient one.
-> SSG clone

Super-Shotgun: if it ain't broke...
-> no change

// Slot 4

Chaingun: save for damage, the chaingun is actually fine. So damage is doubled, through 0 duration frames. There's also twice as much ammo; pickups, maximum capacity, initial ammo. This way the chaingun works about the same, it just deals twice the damage.
One downside, you can shoot with 3 bullets or less and end up with a negative ammo count. There doesn't seem to be any negative gameplay effect associated.
(Why not just make it fire faster? Doesn't sound or look right.)
-> chaingun does twice as much damage, consumes twice as much ammo, bullet ammo is doubled

// Slot 5

RL: can't touch this.
-> no change

// Slot 6

Plasmagun: the plasma gun's one and only problem is sharing ammo with the BFG. In itself, the PG is a fantastic weapon, but the BFG is so ludicrously powerful using the PG is a waste of cells in most situations. One solution is to make the PG more ammo efficient. Doubling the damage per projectile and halving the firing rate results in the same DPS, but twice as much ammo efficiency.
On the other hand, fewer stronger projectiles make for less pain chance and more overkill. To balance that somehow, there is no recharge time anymore; you can let go off the trigger and resume shooting immediately (this breaks the "no behavior change" guideline, but it seems to play out better). Likewise, plasma shots now use the Doom 64 arachnotron sound, as the original one is annoyingly loud.
-> twice as much damage, half as much firing rate, no cooldown, new sound

// Slot 7

BFG: if it's on your side, then it's not overpowered.
-> no change

//---- MONSTERS --------

For the most part, Doom's monster cast works perfectly. In the context of slaughter maps, the biggest issue if any is the relatively large size of many of the interesting monsters (mancs, arachnotrons, etc.), making them less mobile in anything but large scale environments. Other than that, there's several monsters shorter than their sprites, leading to autoaim woes and the like. Most of the changes here have to do with giving monsters appropriate dimensions related to their sprites.

Zombieman: fairly pointless in slaughter maps, they kill each other more than anything. Changing their attack to an arachnotron plasma projectile makes them an alternative to imps.

Demon/Spectre: often too slow to bite, often too big to move. Their radius is lowered to 24 (from 30), their movement speed is increased to 12 (from 10), and their attack frames are lowered to 6 duration (from 8). The changes are subtle ingame, but nonetheless they become more of a threat.

Lost Soul: this one is highly personal. Why does a human skull look as big as a torso? After years, the perspective is still tricky to handle. Why does a Goddamn Bat take almost as much punishment as a bulky, hulking demon? One shot should be all it takes. So their HP is lowered to 20 (from 100), similar to zombiemen. Their radius goes down to 12 (from 16) and their height to 40 (from 56), and the sprite is scaled down to 75% size.

Revenant: height 80 (from 56)
Hell Knight: radius 20 (24), height 72 (64)
Cacodemon: radius 28 (31)
Pain Elemental: radius 28 (31)
Mancubus: radius 40 (48)

Arachnotron: radius 48 (64), height 56 (64). Arachnotrons deal a truckload of damage, and making them more mobile can only add to the threat level. To balance it out, also considering the projectile is now shared with zombiemen, their plasma damage goes down from 5 (* 1d8) to 3 (* 1d8) per shot.

Arch-vile: height 72 (56)

Baron of Hell: radius 20 (24), height 72 (64). Barons of Hell don't live up to their tough guy role when faced with copious amounts of rockets and cells. They get a little boost, with a 3 projectile attack and a pain chance lowered to 20 (from 50).

Spiderdemon: radius 96 (128). Likewise, spider masterminds are often considered disappointing. The significantly lowered radius gives them more freedom, and lowering their pain chance to 20 (from 40) also helps a little.

No changes to unmentioned monsters.

(text file stops here)

More random thoughts:

Overall, this makes the game easier. Obviously, it would be better to release a few maps with it, balanced for it; and that was the original plan.

However, I've been playing around with these ideas for 3 years now (!), and still I twiddle my thumbs. So I might as well post it as is, in case anything in there is of any interest to anyone.

I also wanted to beef up the baron of hell a little. 120% size works well in ZDoom (you can scale up sprites with one line of decorate); makes the baron stand out from HKs. But in PrBoom+, results aren't so hot. Scaling stuff down, like the lost soul, is not so bad, because you can touch it up relatively easily by approximating the detail on the original version and end up with something OKish; and even if it's not quite idsoftware quality, in a way I think it's a boon because the different look immediately reminds you you're playing against a monster of different size than the original one (whereas a sprite scaled down or up can trick you into thinking you're further or closer than you are). Scaling stuff up, however, requires adding detail, and that's a no go with no artistic skill. So far my best efforts make it look like a plastic figurine chewed on by a dog.

I could take a look at those hi-res sprite projects using filters popping up every now and then. While the results aren't so hot at 2x, 3x, 4x, it might work out better if the size increase is a mere 20%. Maybe? I have no idea.

Comment away.

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well this is extremely interesting. In particular I'm interested to see what kind of gameplay could be designed around the new cg/pg behaviors. One interesting side-effect of the double cg shooting is that you can pain-chance rape any single enemy into oblivion now :D

The enemy changes seem mostly sensible, though I'm not quite sure yet how the radius changes will affect gameplay. Won't the HP nerf to lost souls make pain elementals significantly less threatening? They're usually a priority enemy to take down for ammo conservation reasons, but if they require only 1/5 the force to kill their spawns then it might not still be the case. The baron change is interesting, definitely makes them a bit more punishing if you fail to dodge their projectiles, I'm quite curious to see how intense these things could be en masse :)

Anyways, I think I'd definitely be up for making a map showcasing some of the changes. And since sf2014 hasn't really had any activity yet maybe they could give the mod a try as well and see if it would work for the set (similar to xasers original intentions for the slaughterguns for sf13, I believe).

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Won't the HP nerf to lost souls make pain elementals significantly less threatening?

Definitely. It's a side effect I'm happy with, never been big on potentially infinite enemies (at least arch-viles need corpses to do their stuff). Run against the clock effect, highly variable results, etc..

You still want to take PEs down ASAP, because having Lost Souls pop out and charge you is a pain in the ass, no matter how quickly you dispatch them; it's the split second during which they block your rocket shot, or stop you from moving around. But now you can't end up buried into a swarm of lost souls infinitelytalling you while they infight each other anymore, nor do you find a horde waiting for you if you leave 3-4 PEs infighting in a corner.

A particularly subjective change, no doubt about that. I like it, but it's easy to see an equally strong case could be made against it, i.e. the difference being so drastic it alters the feel of the game, and/or dumbs it down.

One interesting side-effect of the double cg shooting is that you can pain-chance rape any single enemy into oblivion now :D

Yep, heh.

Thanks for making those points, this is stuff that ought to be mentioned.

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Nice to see this old idea of yours come into frutition. The tweaks all looks good on paper, though I somehow expected to see the cyberdemon getting his HP nerfed. Maybe it's just me dreaming about that happening, heh.

I'll download and test it this weekend!

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Well, poot. I've had an alpha slaughterguns.wad sitting on my HDD for a while and it looks like I never got to uploading it (could've sworn I had) -- Now I'm not sure what to do with it.

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Ya, lower HP cybies (and masterminds to a lesser extent) are interesting as well. As a mapper you get to use them more liberally, without fear of turning fights sluggish, and as the player this makes cybie encounters faster paced, less of an endurance test.

Of course this is a double edged sword as there's so many examples of interesting slaughter fights relying on cyberdemons being tough bags of HP. Plus the 2-3 BFG shot cyb kill is such a staple and favorite tactic of the genre. It seems just a little too crazy to try to mess with that. :)

Xaser said:

Well, poot. I've had an alpha slaughterguns.wad sitting on my HDD for a while and it looks like I never got to uploading it (could've sworn I had) -- Now I'm not sure what to do with it.

Upload it. The more the merrier. :) I for one would be interested in trying it out.

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I'll dig it up later tonight then -- we did do a few things differently (my chaingun is now a sniper rifle, and there's an Auto Shotgun weapon too), but for the most part I stuck to a lot of your ideas; the PG at least is likely to be identical. :P

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What have you tested with it? Have you tried classic megawads? Does it seem appropriate to use this with existing doom levels, or is this best used in conjunction with specialized maps for it? Also I'm with ribbiks with the lost souls. I think 60 health ala imps is probably better. One shotgun shell each like in doom 64. Or you could make pain elementals spit them out in bursts like your baron of hell. Also a melee attack might make them not suck too.

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I think a map would have to be tailor fit to the mod for best results. For example I tried it with my p2final map and all the shotguns I had lying around weren't there since I guess single barrel effectively doesn't exist anymore other than what's given to you automatically. Also I would keep all guns in original 1/2/3/4/5/6/7 slots; pressing 2 for shotgun would be a constant annoyance in the back of my mind for me at least since I memorized a key layout where 2 is basically never used so I have to look at the keyboard then push 2. Also the differences seem too subtle to make much of a difference. It might be interesting to play a few maps like that but not like a permanent switch or anything. It starts to be uncanny valleyish when its only slightly different.
I don't know how to do dehacked but I have thought before, what are different possible situations in the nature of the game doom that can warrant different guns as tools for different jobs. And there's the risk of unbalance, like if one gun is best you will always use it and ignore all other choices (just like if a dragon punch is always best choice you'll always use it), but w/ doom you can limit any best choice with ammo anyway unlike street fighter. Might be good for each choice to have both pros and cons, like who knows maybe every time you hold the bfg you get slow lava type damage to offset its power or something. One example of that was crash bandicoot 3 for ps1 if I remember. There was this one racing part where you can go faster, however the con is you steer at a smaller angle when going fast.

What situations can arise in doom? Basically what properties can a monster or bunch of monsters have?
monsters can:
1) be bunched up (rocket launcher is a tool for that, has a con of splash damaging you if you shoot too close. You could maybe even reverse the pros/cons like a different rocket launcher that only splash damage hurts you if you shoot too FAR and doesn't hurt you up close, but would be weird). Perhaps a spread shot gun, like a weird gun might be 2 single barrels pointing 45 degrees to each side and nothing pointing forward, so to use it efficiently you'd have to try to line up 2 enemies in a right angle.
2) be near or far (ssg/berzerk for close, chain/single for far). Perhaps a grenade launcher that always explodes like in a small circle 20 feet away from you, so you would have to position enemies in the damage circle to use it, useless outside that range.
3) can be lined up (maybe a gun that does like single barrel damage, however it can shoot through infinitely far in a straight line through infinite monsters damaging all equally)
4)can be behind architecture (maybe a gun that shows a white box around all enemies within a certain radius, whether behind architecture or not, then it can shoot through walls)
Maybe a gun that only blasts enemies if there are exactly 3 enemies on screen within a certain radius, too few/too many it doesn't work, so you'd be powerless against certain numbers or have to position them on screen so you can shoot them.
Or like an enemy that takes multiple guns to defeat. Like some sort of turtle that is immune to everything but chaingun at first and that makes it cower into its shell, then you have to punch it to flip it over, only then you can shoot it with whatever else.

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What if, for Cyberdemons you went down the Baron/HK route and repurposed the nazi/keen into a Cyberdemon recolour that's exactly the same, but with half health?

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What have you tested with it?

Truthfully, I only got off my ass and made the wad two days ago. So, not a whole lot. But I have tested these changes and many more in bits and pieces over the last 3 years, gradually playing more and more with something akin to this mod than anything else. For the last 6 months, whenever I'm not recording a demo there's always a gameplay mod running.

Which is an interesting experience in itself (like gggmork alludes to with his uncanny valley comment). It's not quite like switching between two different games, as no matter how close they are you're probably going to see clear distinctions in visuals, sounds and so on. Here this is swapping identical looking versions of the game with different behavior, and this plays tricks with your expectations. At first I'd play for a bit and often feel something is off. Sometimes I ended up convinced this was pointless and worse in every possible way and stopped using the mod for weeks. But over the months, I got more used to it. Nowadays I switch back and forth and things feel seamless, just fall into place.

Getting to the point: there's valid rationalisations you can make for almost any great part of Doom, but in the end balance is about what feels right; and perception in that regard is often influenced positively by familiarity.

When you think about it, there's huge balance differences between UV and Nightmare, or even just UV and UV -fast and/or -respawn; yet we make all these game modes work, even in maps designed only for UV. IMHO, the changes in this mod are less significant than the difference between UV and -fast/-respawn/NM, and I have found playing most maps with it interesting.

But it does make the game easier, and it affects balance in unintended ways. If you use the version with size changes, it'll outright break some maps specifically relying on monster size; most common occurrence would be barons, revs, HKs, AVs stuck in low ceilings. Sometimes it causes issues with teleport closets, too.

Generally speaking, the more loose your map is, in terms of freedom of movement you give to monsters and in individual fight design, the more likely this will work fine. As things get more controlled, stuff is more likely to break. Maps with emphasis with RL/BFG and massive infighting, i.e. Sunder, tend to be OK, as these options are not superseded by any of the changes. Maps with tough encounters in small quarters, i.e. Stardate20x6, don't fare so well.

Ultimately custom maps made for it would work best. I post this more as a way to drum up discussion or trade ideas than as a complete, workable thing.

Also I'm with ribbiks with the lost souls. I think 60 health ala imps is probably better.

The more I think about it, the more I think you're right. 60 HP could be a good middle ground.

Going even further, nerfing lost souls is hardly warranted at all. Really, more of a personal issue in focus than anything else; related to the above, I started making this as "things I would like to see different in that super cool megawad I'm definitely going to start building right away, honest", and there used to be all sorts of stuff like PEs shooting baron fireballs, arch-viles stripped of their resurrect frames, barons shooting one rocket, kamikaze enemies, etc. etc..

Some of that didn't work out, most of it was interesting in a vacuum but didn't make sense in maps not balanced with it, so the goal gradually moved on to more general purpose stuff. The lost soul changes were left there, but there's no overarching justification for their inclusion. In fact you can see how I struggle explaining the change in the OP, compared to the rest of the text file written in a relatively neutral and objective way, heh.

There's interesting dynamics with low HP lost souls, but it doesn't seem to belong here.

pressing 2 for shotgun would be a constant annoyance in the back of my mind for me at least since I memorized a key layout where 2 is basically never used so I have to look at the keyboard then push 2.

I agree it takes a while to get used to. There's a tradeoff here. If you never change things so you're not bullied out of your comfort zone, you have to live with design flaws forever. Although it's obviously VERY arguable whether having to press a key twice and wait a few seconds can qualify as a "design flaw", likely few people are as annoyed by it as I am.

Also the differences seem too subtle to make much of a difference. It might be interesting to play a few maps like that but not like a permanent switch or anything.

You might be surprised how little change it takes for very different results.

But again, you're right. It wouldn't work as a permanent gameplay enhancer or somesuch. I failed to mention that in my OP, but this is really my take on a few things that could make gameplay more interesting (and not so much "better" as "about as good, with a different flavor") in the context of a megawad I wanted to build; hence the obnoxious name as well. Any proper general purpose slaughter dehacked mod would have to be community driven, IMHO.

What if, for Cyberdemons you went down the Baron/HK route and repurposed the nazi/keen into a Cyberdemon recolour that's exactly the same, but with half health?

Recolours are the devil! Now if you're talking that wonderful Cybruiser sprite Eriance made... ;)

IIRC there is one issue of note for any rocket-launching monsters, unless you use the Spider Mastermind's slot they will hurt themselves, the immunity to splash damage is hardcoded. Not a showstopper, the SpiderMM can be moved to the Nazi slot (although then it'll take more damage from RL).

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These minor changes sound interesting - think I'll give a speed map a go with this patch next week and see how it works. I know I'm not the intended audience as I don't like slaughter maps, but I think the balance shifts will work in the sort of stuff I do too. The lower health lost souls are very welcome, although I'd agree that about 60 health (maybe 50) would work better than 20.

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it's pretty fun to play! can make standard maps a bit easy, perhaps, what with your, technically, infinite-ammo shotgun, but it removes a bit of frustration from the game in that all weapons are useful in a way now. the only bugs i've seen so far is that ZDoom spawns an unknown entity over the chainsaw (which make sense, considering it's removed), and the tech pillar. none of these issues impact gameplay a lot, however.

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Ahh, thanks for the catch. I was planning to hold off until changes were final to make a ZDoom version; but I figured it should be fifteen minutes work in Decorate, so might as well do it right now rather than post saying that.

Well, it took one hour and a half - I guess I'm just slow - but the first post is updated with ZDoom versions now. In quick testing (map01, IDKFA, monster summons), it seems to work fine; and there's no need to fiddle with bullet ammo or tech columns anymore, so this should be less intrusive.

Changed Lost Soul HP to 60 in either "_comp.wad" version (kept it at 20 in the main ones, because I'm interested in seeing what people think about it anyway if they feel like trying it). No other changes.

Edit: oops, forgot about pain chance with the chaingun. 2 bullets per shot instead of 2x damage, then. Updated link.

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Darn, I really like this mod. Any chance you can get it to work in the latest version of ZDaemon? Most of it seems fine except for chainsaw and shotgun pickup sprite. I might be missing something here I just checked quickly. ;)

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Edit: ah, there's no decorate support in ZDaemon. My bad.

Hmm. I guess the problem is with conflicting DoomEd numbers. PrBoom+ plays nice and replaces the item quietly, but ZDoom ports throw an exclamation mark. Not sure what to do here.

I don't really see a way to make it work as intended. I could let the shotgun and chainsaw be pickups. You're just going to end up with 2 super-shotguns and two fists.* It's going to be annoying for people who cycle weapons with the mousewheel, but it might be a preferable alternative to floating error signs.

Although there's still the issue of, no chainsaw or berserk in situations assuming you have at least the chainsaw. Might be best to give an actual chainsaw back here.

On the topic of exclamation marks... The tech column was cannibalized to have chaingun pickups (and no drops from chaingunners) because Phml hates techbases. Yeah, that was dumb. Instead, I should use something insignificant visually, like the tiny pool of blood; although if there's maps using that decoration liberally, it'd spit out a truckload of error signs in ZDaemon. But I think it'd be worth making the change for PrBoom+ at least.

*Edit: err, except you'd end up with a super-shotgun when you're only meant to get a shotgun. I guess I could switch the shotgun pickup back to a normal shotgun weapon, there's nothing stopping me from switching this shotgun ammo type to bullets as well, and with the SSG taking priority on hotkey press it might not be too much of a problem.

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Trying to fix the above, just noticed a really nasty bug with PrBoom+. If all you have is the shotgun (pistol) and the chaingun, and get yourself in negative ammo firing the chaingun, you get stuck in an endless loop switching the two weapons, and can't break out of it.

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Can't really think of a way to fix the negative ammo issue so far. So for the time being, I decided to forget about the whole 0 frame duration thing and just set the chaingun frames to fire in 2 tics (rather than 4).

Essentially, this gives the same gameplay effect. However visually the chaingun spins like an epileptic's nightmare and it starts sounding like a woodcutter (actually closer to how real miniguns sound, but there's a reason most video games don't go that route); which is why I didn't go for that in the first place.

But I tested it anyway, and after a while found most of the above aren't actual issues for me, as I don't focus on looking at the weapon while playing the game; but YMMV, obviously. I'm probably biased, wanting the solution to work.

Also changed the chaingun pickup to replace pools of blood instead of tech columns. Should be much less obvious in PrBoom+.

There's now ZDaemon versions, which are the most part similar to the normal ones, except the chainsaw stays... and so does the shotgun, in a way.

You get an extra shotgun in slot 3, which uses shells (necessary, otherwise you'd get bullets with the pickup); it doesn't fire at all, showing instead a pistol sprite, so the player knows he's using the wrong weapon.

No changes in ZDoom versions.

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I liked this, especially the new pain elemental, it looks like a floating revenant by now.

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