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rabidrage

Divergent evolution. Consoles. Modding. Etc.

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Hey, everyone! Long time, no talk. I know I'm one of those guys who comes and goes and doesn't seem committed to this whole thing, but work sucks and I've been trying to make it as an author in the meantime. I figured I'd exercise my writing muscles a bit with a Doom exercise!

I've recently replaced a few components I need to run my old game systems, and I'm starting a run-through of every single console version of Doom in order of release. I've decided to compose a series of articles detailing the experience and offering some unique perspectives on Doom's evolution through the years. One major highlight of this is to show how the game has evolved along three separate branches:

1. Official PC releases on the Doom engine, modified and otherwise (i.e. Ultimate Doom, Doom II, Heretic, Chex Quest, etc.)

2. Console versions of Doom (SNES, Jaguar, etc.)

3. Work by the modding community, from the very first custom levels to new sprites to source ports.

These three branches interacted and influenced one another over time, leading to vast improvements. While Carmack & company decided to start from scratch with Doom 3, I believe they came in second to what's been done with Id Tech 1. It has gone through its own divergent evolution and surpassed what has been accomplished with subsequent engines. Do you agree? Disagree?

Here's my first article. Maybe it'll provide some food for thought. I'm interested in what kind of discussion this sparks. The next article will probably be up by next week!

http://www.talesntangents.com/journey-to-the-center-of-doom-part-1.html

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I think you're comparing apples to oranges here. The "official" PC releases were also the closest to the original engine, and especially Heretic/Hexen represented the peak of effort that id themselves put into them, feature-wise. Some of those features were later "reinvented" by source ports (like freelook, extended limits, scripting etc.), which IMO are the true "spiritual successor" of id's efforts. There are countless of threads and practical evidence of what id themselves things of their idTech 1 engines: they put the least possible effort possible into porting it to new platforms, even today, and they have no interest in trying to beat source ports at their own game. There will never be an "official Boom" or "official ZDoom", if that's what you were hoping for.

Console versions represented more or less practical compromises for making Doom playable on much more limited/different hardware. There might have been some osmosis between the most advanced (e.g. PSX, N64 ports) and the -much later- hardware acceleratd source ports on PC, but there hardly was a common "console branch": each version was essentially halfway between an adhoc hackjob and a complete rewrite, with only minimal parts of the engine featuring in more than one version (e.g. the compressed IWAD format).

As for usermade mods, well, those are just mods. Some certainly pushed the boundary of what was thought possible within the vanilla engine, but none of them can be considered a "branch" of Doom. For that matter, I personally don't feel that source ports can be considered "mods" in the same way that DEH patches and levels can, but they certainly have been influential in mod design/development. Now, if you want to discuss mods designed for specific engines (especially when scripting is involved), that's a brand new bag :-)

Edit: not related to Doom, but you might want to check out your facts on the Super FX chip: it was not used in Donkey Kong Country, and was by no means necessary: the SNES could easily handle that kind of graphics natively. There was however one 2D game that utilized it.... ;-)

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When looking back on the facts about the FX Chip, it seems to depend on where you look: http://www.gamefaqs.com/snes/916396-snes/reviews/review-76414

I don't know about "apples and oranges". You're right, for the most part. In the 90s, the consoles had a lot trickle down to them and pretty much nothing trickled back up. Nonetheless, in the 2000s and beyond, they got their revenge, so to speak. We now have total conversions and the Console Doom wad, and the PSX, Doom 64 and 3DO music are still amazing to play to.

As far as the modding community's influence, several times teams were chosen from among them to make new official levels--from Thy Flesh Consumed through Final Doom, many levels were designed by people who had impressed Id with their amateur work. Some of them went on to design the Boom Engine (the same people who created the TNT episode of Final Doom). That, to me, represents helical evolution.

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The bit about the Super FX chip and DKC is a factually wrong statement which has just been copied-pasted around long enough to eventually make it a "truth". :-)

In anycase, it's not my job to dispense tips on how to become a better online journalist/blogger and do more thorough research, it's one of those things one learns with time/experience.

several times teams were chosen from among them to make new official levels--from Thy Flesh Consumed through Final Doom


In Thy Flesh Consumed, there was only one level made from someone not already a member of id -I leave finding which one and who as an exercise to the reader.

Final Doom was pretty much the first and last time a complete official IWAD (two, actually) was designed by people of the "Doom mod community". The Master Levels hardly classify. The -much later- No Rest for the Living IWAD was not even complete -just a modified Doom 2 IWAD with 10 new levels-, and it was made by people completely unknown and oblivious to Doomworld or any other major Doom community site, for that matter. Even the engine was nothing more than a limit-extended version of the LinuxDoom one (not even some super-exclusive continuation of the DOS executable). That's hardly "evolution", it smells more of "milking Doom for all that it's worth with the least amount of effort", to me.

Some of them went on to design the Boom Engine (the same people who created the TNT episode of Final Doom). That, to me, represents helical evolution.


That was more like a kind of a happy coincidence. After that, the evolution of source ports was much more chaotic, and not necessarily linked to people or teams with notable mapping/modding "portfolios"

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For some games, code modding and data modding go hand in hand. To stay within the bounds of id software games, take a look at the sorry state of Wolf3D modding. Every mod goes with its own executable.

In Doom, things kinda started to go this way, but it stopped pretty soon as the people dedicated to making ports for making ports' sake were working faster than those who were making a port for a given mod's needs. The most notable example would be the Eternity Engine, originally created to power a TC which was abandoned long ago. (Most of the TC-related code in EE has since been cleaned out.)

I think Caverns of Darkness and Doom 64: The Absolution are the only Doom mods which need their own executable to run. (And COD has compatibility patches allowing to run it with other ports, namely ZDoom and Risen3D.)

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Until recently, Action Doom 2 needed a very specific ZDoom version to run. The updated version of it apparently runs on the master head revision though :P

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Foreverhood and (infamously) Doom: Rampage Edition were also bound to specific versions of the ZDoom executable.

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Maes, I have to give in on the FX Chip--I own the DKC cartridge, as well as the Doom cartridge, and the DKC cart doesn't have the same extra piece. I remember not being able to plug the SNES Doom into the Game Genie, despite the fact that there are codes for it...

I'm fine with certain things being "happy coincidences". It doesn't disprove the point I'm trying to make. The makers of TNT developed the Boom engine. MBF was an offshoot of Boom, SMMU grew out of MBF, and the Eternity engine was, in the words of the Doom wiki, "a derivative of the SMMU codebase".

If you check the Doom wiki, John Anderson and Tim Willits are both noted as mappers for Thy Flesh Consumed who originated from the modding community.

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rabidrage said:

I'm fine with certain things being "happy coincidences". It doesn't disprove the point I'm trying to make.


Nor does it prove it ;-) It's no wonder that benchmarking against random outcome is used as an evaluation metric from pretty much everything. Almost anyone can make something good out of pure luck once, but that doesn't prove he's a genius or truly good at that particular field. See also "One Hit Wonder".

Also, out of pure luck, a team of good modders can also prove to be good source port designers, but one does not cause or imply the other: there are countless good mappers which know zilch about programming, and good programmers which would suck terribly at mapping.

Also, in today's world, once a piece of software is released with an open source license (as was Boom), it's only natural that other people will expand it and incrementally improve it. That doesn't require them to be the next team TNT though.

Again, it's not my job to give (online) journalism tips, but unless you want to become yet another sensationalist journalist/writer or a parrot of other people's fanfares, you need to check, re-check, and then check again everything you write for logical fallacies, factual mistakes, overblown statements etc.

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I must admit, when I expected this to spark a conversation, I thought it would be a little less boring.

My thesis statement, if you will, was simply that the three branches influenced one another over time. One or two happy coincidences is all it takes, proving my point.

Anyway, stay tuned for the next article. I'll make amends for my FX chip fallacy and do more research.

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Quasar said:

Until recently, Action Doom 2 needed a very specific ZDoom version to run. The updated version of it apparently runs on the master head revision though :P

Maes said:

Foreverhood and (infamously) Doom: Rampage Edition were also bound to specific versions of the ZDoom executable.

And ZanZan with ZDoomGL. However, I didn't count them since they were cases of mods designed for a specific engine, rather than engine designed for a specific mod. dsv4_rvltinE only works on an old version of Eternity, too. :p

You could, however, count the first release of Chex Quest 3, before the author was contacted by Blzut3 and Graf Zahl to replace the needless hardcoding in the custom exe with softcoding in the wad.

rabidrage said:

I must admit, when I expected this to spark a conversation, I thought it would be a little less boring.

You go to a nerd hive, you get a nerd debate. Sorry. :p

rabidrage said:

My thesis statement, if you will, was simply that the three branches influenced one another over time. One or two happy coincidences is all it takes, proving my point.

If the "official" branch had been influenced by the community one way or another, this would have been read once by some of the guys at Id, Nerve, or Vicarious Visions.

Most of these problems are easily fixed and have been left unaddressed in Doom Classic. Quasar found that you can crash the entirety of Doom 3: BFG Edition by using a doortrack in MAP06 of Doom II.

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Acknowledged. I'm pretty confident that there was a lot of interaction through the 90s, or at least enough to comment on it. After that, the "official" branch affected the others, but not vice-versa, I'm sorry to say. It's also sad that nobody was picked up out of the robust modding community to design "No Rest for the Living"...if Mael's facts are correct. I have no reason to doubt them and can't find any info to the contrary.

Ah! But! Chex Quest 3 could be considered an "official" release on the Doom Engine. I mean, depending on your standards. It was designed for use with ZDoom.

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When you have to try so hard to "see" something, then perhaps it just plain ain't there?

Ah! But! Chex Quest 3 could be considered an "official" release on the Doom Engine. I mean, depending on your standards. It was designed for use with ZDoom.


So, depending on one's standards, ZDoom can be considered an official Doom Engine. Right. Reminds me of an older poster claiming that the Future of Doom, no less, was in the hands of Graf Zahl, since "if he decided to change something in GZDoom, then that would become the new standard for Doom".

Closing, Doom is the ultimate paradox when it comes to its mod scene: yes, there are probably more Doom maps out there than there will ever be for any other game in any category. Yes, again, there are more source ports for it than any other game in any category, and it was also one of the first (if not THE first) "modern" game to have a full source code release, especially one so close to the game's prime.

But OTOH, as far as "official" response was concerned, this whole modding thing was pretty one-sided: id at best tolerated the existence of modding, but they never actually helped it in any major way (until the release of the source code, of course): until then (and it was late 1997, way past the game's commercial prime), ALL editors were made based on third-party reverse engineering and guesswork, and little to no official input from id. So this led to weird situations like e.g. there being some talented mappers hired by id....but all of them got their "formation" through unofficial channels before actually being "on the team".

Id never helped the "doom community" with actual specs, engine limits, file & struct formats etc. until it was "too late", so to speak (and understandably so, since they LICENSED THE ENGINE FOR MONEY). Only conventionally licensed developers for various consoles got to see any of the goodies before anyone else.

After Doom's source code was released, as far as id was concerned, it was over: they had bigger fish to fry (Quake 1, 2 and 3 engines), and they couldn't care less about keeping a two-way communication with the "Doom community". The various console re-releases are ample proof of how much they cared about the community's input and source ports: exactly zero. Doom modding is and has always been a one-way street.

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For NRFTL and the community, you can look at these threads and look for posts by TheCastle and Squibbons. That's about all, and it's after NRFTL was published, but it's more than nothing.

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I'm working my way through the first thread now. There's a post by one of the NRFTL designers where he says that he's "lived and breathed Doom for years and years". He goes on to explain why the mapset came out the way it did. Very interesting!

I can concede that, mostly, official releases have been free of influence after the 90s, but if TheCastle made wads/mods prior to his work on NRFTL, that changes things a bit. That and, like I said, Chex Quest 3.

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CQ3 isn't officially official. It's like idmap01 in a way: it's made by the same guy who worked at Digital Café, but it's not made by Digital Café or associated to the cereal company that patronized the original. It's, well, a fan sequel made by the original author.

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Really, what's so hard to understand about the fact that everything about Doom modding has been a 99.999% fan-driven endeavor, with only the tolerance -at best- of the "authorities"? Official ports are official, and unofficial ports are unofficial.

To understand how far this goes, still none outside of id has been able to use the very same tools that id used for mapping or resource editing (with the only exception of the developers of official console ports in the 90s, maybe)

Those later 2010s ports were not even based on some exotic undisclosed source code hidden in id's darkest dungeons, only for the Chosen Ones to feast their eye on: it was based upon the freely available linuxdoom v1.10 source code, with most of its warts and wrinkles still in plain view.

And the new maps were made with modern freeware editors and tools, with no support or exotic tools supplied from id. So you could say that id got more from the community than they gave back (well....other than CREATING Doom in the first place).

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I get that it's a point of pride for you, Maes. I wasn't looking for this to get nasty, and actually, I don't know if you noticed, but I mostly agree with you. I can point to a handful of places where it worked the other way, and for each of those there are a thousand others where it didn't. Regardless, I've kind of fixated upon those where there was give-and-take between all three of my branches of Doom development. They're more interesting to me.

Gez, I get what you're saying. For my purposes, CQ3 is "official". Maybe not canon, though. ;)

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It'd be more useful to talk about some things like parallel evolution between the various id Tech 1 licensees and then eventually in source ports. Strife, Hexen, and Doom 64 all implement an up-wait-down-stay type of plat, for instance, and none of them share each others' code for doing it. Strife has translucency, hubs, terrain types, and up/down look, but they are not the same as Raven's implementions for Heretic and Hexen. Boom also adds translucency, again not Raven's OR Strife's.

The amount of sharing has been fantastically small really, outside the source port community. All of the old school commercial console ports that used the actual engine were done by independent teams, mostly using the Jaguar port as the starting point. So for example the high quality soundtrack gets stranded on the 3DO which is otherwise terrible and done by some no-name dev, while the good visuals end up on the PSX/Doom 64 branch, done by Williams/Midway.

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Sometimes I believe that when these things don't happen concurrently, they happen because someone implements it and then someone else sees it and says "Hey, how come we don't have that?" They might not do it the same way, but they're inspired by the original. Not always, of course. Also, I appreciate the lesson, Quasar. Part of my project is to learn as much as possible.

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MegaTurtleRex said:

I thought it was nice how the console versions have come to be cherished, like Doom 64 and its sexcellent PC port.

Well, in the case of Doom 64, it's basically an entirely different game. PS1/Saturn Doom has some new stages, but it's nowhere near the same level.

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Yeah it's pretty special, one of the few cases where the console version wasn't a downgrade but an entirely different experience.

PSX Doom has its own vibe though. That thing was creepy, I remember renting it along with Hexen on PS1. They don't make covers like they used to :P they looked so eerie.

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I don't know if it would be better to start a new post for the second article, or just add it to this thread. The second article is written: http://www.talesntangents.com/journey-to-the-center-of-doom-part-2.html

I've continued to chronicle my experience, recanted a few factoids that were incorrect, and compared the console versions a bit more.

I like that we've steered the topic onto Doom 64. It really was like Doom 2.5. As I play through all the console Dooms in release order, I'll make a case for how Doom 64 was a natural step forward, considering the progression they seemed to follow.

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