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Bernie

Why is "Knee-Deep in Zdoom" hated?

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I had just finished Ultimate Torment and Torture several days ago, and I'm very impressed by Tormentor667's mapping skills. He really knows how to properly execute a well in-depth mod with non-linear gameplay and diverse enemies.

Being intrigued in Tormentor entirely, I decided to take a look at some more work, and remembered a project of his called "Knee deep in Zdoom". I decided to research it, and I found out there is a very mixed reception.

On the /idgames archive, I found people saying that it was a masterpiece in showing off Zdoom's impressive coding and design, but a seemingly more overwhelming opinion states that it has very confusing layout, unfair difficulty, and pretty much any other optional, objectionable, thing they can think of. I am quite surprised by these opinions, because looking at gameplay footage, and screenshots, I seem to be very moved indeed. Everything looks perfect. The custom enemies, the textures, the level design. Everything. I am very inclined to download and play this gem.

But before I do, I need a Doomworld opinion here to answer my very questions and discuss the drama behind this mod. Why do people hate it? What problems do people have with it? Why is the hatred towards it the epitome of bandwagoning?

And to the fans of Knee Deep in Zdoom, why should I get it? Why do you think the hater's opinions are irrelevant and biased? Why do you think Knee Deep in Zdoom is one of the best Doom mods of all time?

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There is tons of backtracking, too many keys, too much micro detail that one gets stuck on, the added bestiary is obnoxious. The mapset is overrated and I guess that's all I personally have to say about it. Also the gameplay isn't interesting, there's too much hallway, and the boss at the end really sucks. I guess I'm just not a fan.

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My take on it is that there are some interesting parts, but it's ultimately a very flawed work. Lots of different authors working on different parts of the same maps without a lot of cohesion between them, so the style becomes very jumbled and the layout progression is often frustratingly convoluted. A lot of that originates from it starting out as an open community project planned to be completed in only three weeks, and then morphing gradually into a long-term closed-team project that kept ballooning in scope and complexity. A lot of odd decisions made early on ended up getting grandfathered into the final product.

Though it is a very mixed bag, some of its maps do have some pretty neat architectural work. If you like Vader's mapping, Z1M6 is kind of like a predecessor to the style he used in Thunderpeak Powerplant. I liked the atmosphere of Z1M7, and Z1M4 had some really impressive architectural ideas here and there even though its actual quality of execution was far below its level of ambition. On the weaker side, there's a lot of "just fill every space with detailed ceiling lights, crates, or computer panels" room design in some of the maps, which doesn't hold up very well, particularly nowadays since there are a lot of high-detail newer wads with a stronger and more cohesive aesthetic, whereas KDiZD's amount of detailing was itself a pretty novel thing at the time it was made.

Some of the new monsters are pretty cool, and KDiZD's development is the origin of some very nice original monster sprites that have occasionally shown up elsewhere, like the Shadow and Soul Harvester. There are a lot of them, though, and a decent percentage of them are basically superfluous ammo sponges.

The actual gameplay setup for the maps was mostly shelved until the very tail end of KDiZD's development, so there are a lot of rather dull and uninspired encounters that mostly just take up your time rather than creating interesting gameplay setups. Planning out gameplay scenarios earlier in development and having some dedicated gameplay-focused playtesters putting forth ideas would have made a huge difference in enjoyability there, but it just wasn't a focus.

Ultimately I don't really enjoy actually playing it, but as a mapper and a member of the Doom community, I still find it to be an interesting piece of community history due to the people involved with it and the sheer scope of the project.

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I remember playing The community is falling (3 I think) where it mentions that KDIZD was leaked or something. Was that true? Or just some plot line used for that mod?

Im curious.

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Back when I played it I just booted it up without giving so much attention to the controversy. Imo it isn't really well executed. The gameplay is really slow and the new monsters made it to be such a slog that for a while I was thinking to lower the difficult to see if it flowed better. Layouts were confusing but it was mostly disappointing to see E1 turned into a mass of long corridors. It has its good share of cool stuff though, but it's plenty of stuff put together that doesn't blend very well.

esselfortium said:

Lots of different authors working on different parts of the same maps without a lot of cohesion between them, so the style becomes very jumbled and the layout progression is often frustratingly convoluted.


This explains a lot of things, I didn't know it. I always thought that the maps look like a mess, I guess that making collabs and going with that high levels of detail doesn't work very well.

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For myself, I've found it boring. The new enemies doesn't add much, actually many of them feel like filler, as also many new sections.

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I played it without knowing any of the drama and found it to be perfectly fine set of maps, a little confusing at times but impressive nonetheless.

Just play it and make your own opinion, you'll probably know pretty soon if you don't like it. Seems like a lot of negativity was compounded by the hype surrounding it.

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The new enemies are far too powerful and hard to dodge and kill, lots of long backtracking.
I quit after playing half the wad, because the negative points dragged more than ever each time.

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I enjoy KDiZD overall, but it does have some problems that even I noticed.

One is that every map is a giant sprawling mess with no real landmarks or notable areas to guide the player, so you can get seriously lost. This is due in part to the fact that, as essel mentioned, different authors actually worked on parts of the same map, which is at best a forgettable gimmick and can lead to really bad mapping when done with people who aren't familiar with each other's styles. But perhaps an even bigger part of it is that they wanted every map to be a high point, so there's no sense of progression.

Another issue is that despite the detailing and all the new textures, the maps somehow feel even more bland and generic than the iwad techbases. Literally every single map uses the exact same texture combinations, the exact same decorative elements and the exact same overall design. An added effect of this is that the maps are largely unidentifiable as riffs on the originals. I couldn't even identify most of the iconic areas in the maps until I saw some comparison screenshots.

The monsters are a mixed bag. Most of them I like, especially the imp variants, but some of them (chainsaw zombie, satyr) feel pointless and some of them (Hell's Fury and especially the true final boss) are just plain ugly. What I dislike about them is that they not only ignore the limitations of the original Episode 1, which lacked some of the more demonic enemies (Lost Soul, Cacodemon, Baron except for the finale and the bosses), but also ignore any sense of progression of monster difficulty within the episode, pelting the player with Nobles and Cacodemons almost from the start.

Oh, also no infighting. Whose genius idea was that?

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Jimp Argon said:

I remember playing The community is falling (3 I think) where it mentions that KDIZD was leaked or something. Was that true? Or just some plot line used for that mod?

Im curious.


My memory is kinda fuzzy, but if i recall correctly someone in the zdoom forums shared a link where the maps were being hosted for the development team. I remember downloading E1M2 and E1M8. E1M8 had this puzzle that was removed of the final version, were you had to walk along the path seen on a mirror. Im not sure if this was the leak that TCIF3 was based on. Anyway, there sure was a shitstorm after it was released

Overall KDiZD it's great, but not without flaws. some of the maps that should had been simpler just were overblown (E1M1 was way too complex for it's own good, and especially E1M3. The whole underground area ruins the whole map in my opinion). having recently played through the mod not so long ago, i found it good. flawed. but overall good. It really had it's moments, and it's maps are beautiful to look. I don't have many hopes now, but im still looking forward to the TSoZD

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I think I made it up to map 04 before calling it. It was a navigational nightmare where I spent more time backtracking and switch hunting than engaging in interesting gameplay.

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KDiZD's problem is too much backtracing and the levels are confusing, you'll get lost a lot, even with automap.
But if these issues aren't a problem to you, then you may just enjoy it a lot.

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Ah good ol' Knee Deep In ZDoom; one of the first Doom wads I played and finished. (back when I did Doom wad Let's Plays....)

I really enjoyed seeing the highly-detailed ZDoom-style reimagining of the first episode of Ultimate Doom. The monster choices were interesting, I generally liked the atmosphere and music, and for the most part KdizD was a fondly remembered experience of mine.

But fuck the occasionally confusing progression. KdizD also taught me that ZDoom wads can sometimes be full of too much clutter and detail; granted I've seen much worse examples since, but the pain of trying to find the odd switch amidst a sea of detail was annoying at times.

That being said, I'd still like to see Tormentor667 someday get around to doing the Shores of ZDoom, as what I saw from the super secret level (of which I'm still convinced mine is still the only Youtube playthrough of this wad that covers that level) indicated some good promise.

KdizD showed me early on the good and the bad points of ZDoom maps. And I'd still like to see more people tackle ZDoom mapping today because of it.....

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I felt the project was generally palatable and quite enjoyable in places, though it had a number of design issues that probably could have been ironed out to significantly improve the final product. It is not actually a terribly colorful or garish presentation in terms of its asset set, but manages to appear visually oversaturated with detail prefabs (boxlights in the ceilings, layers of terraced trim and insets in otherwise featureless corridors, etc.) and strangely architecturally eclectic at places, which is most likely a function both of its unusual design process (where different mappers assembled different parts of different maps and then glued them all together) and of the prevalence of what might be called the "Detail Guide" approach to aesthetics, which fixates on a decal-based or 'modular' approach to visual design prone to making simpler rooms/constructions seem overwrought. A lack of focus in actual in-world thematics also appears from time to time, and for probably much the same reasons as above. The most pronounced of these to me always seemed to be the "mine" segment which suddenly shows up smack in the middle of "Toxin Refinery." Weird, man. More fundamental than any of these issues, though, is simply that some of the levels (and some segments within each level) are just blatantly made to a higher standard than others, which is something many of us probably expect and accept in a community project format, but is more distracting in the context of something presenting itself as a cohesive, seamless production.

A lot of the above is a polish/QC issue, of course, and I reckon may not have received as much attention due to priorities set elsewhere, most famously (and comedically) in the dogged dedication to the inclusion of sprite rotations for minor item pickups and the like, which in practice ended up looking a little dodgy and would occasionally even interfere with gameplay in small ways. It's a minor issue on the whole, I think, but it's difficult not to have at least a few questions when you consider the massive amount of time and effort spent on an extremely minor and purely cosmetic feature like this while other patently uneven spots in the design go unaddressed. Par for the course, one also sees some measure of feature-dump which has historically been part and parcel of large ZDoom projects--lots of extra actors/monsters and other bells and whistles from the R667 asset repository, but none of this seemed as silly to me as the item rotation thing. The satyrs and chaingun lieutenants and maybe a couple of the other new 'things' do seem a little out of step with the majority of the presentation in terms of aesthetic styling, but from a gameplay level all were appropriately functional and balanced, and so no serious qualms there....except for the final boss, which is so far out of step with everything else while simultaneously being a completely baldfaced lift from another game that I still wonder to this day what the hell the team was thinking including that one (it's a quick and easy encounter, though, at least). A set of scripts and assets that took too much dev time NOT to be used, I guess? The other elephant in the room that always comes up as regards this project was the disabling of the infighting feature, which I myself am generally pretty neutral towards. Turning this behavior off seriously impacts how "Doom-y" the game feels, for sure (an issue not to be taken lightly in a project proclaiming to allow you to 'relive' the most famous/popular segment of the original game), but given the highly heterogeneous monster mix leaving it turned on probably would have been just as problematic for gameplay, if not moreso.

All that aside, the game does have real virtues, I think. I enjoy large/sprawling levels, myself, and generally don't have too much trouble with navigation and related issues, and so a set comprised entirely of large/elaborate levels is not a turnoff for me--quite the contrary, in fact. As a whole, the project took an interesting spin on incentivizing secrets, both through the traditional Phobos method of early introduction of weapons (with a genuine exclusive or two?) and through the unusual conceit by which the secret level is accessed. As said above, many of the new actors work surprisingly well in the way they're implemented (not at all a given with ZDoom projects in this general mold), and I particularly enjoyed the new 'rifle' weapon, which uses some reworked sprites from the tired old alpha stockpile for its visuals but is quite satisfying and effective from a functionality standpoint (if perhaps a little on the OP side due to a fairly hearty supply of ammo for it). Perhaps the thing KDiZD most fundamentally gets right, though, is that, uneven level design aside, the way its action is paced is consistently bloody, offering you droves and droves of weaker enemies to mow down as you progress, with a very conscientious dedication to letting the monsters wander around and repopulate earlier areas as you pass back through. The result is a type of combat that feels involved and entertaining without being terribly taxing or demanding (and which suits its sprawling, wander-prone levels well), which is a feeling that's at the core of the original KDitD, and an issue where a number of 'Classic'-style projects often misfire by trying to reign in the violence too much in pursuit of some idealized sense of authenticity. Ironic, no?

All in all, I like it enough that I've played it more than once, anyway. Definitely a lot to be learned from and improved upon should TSoZD ever see the light of day, though, of course.

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It's been a looong time since I last played KDiZD, but from what I remember the maps were annoying with all the back tracking and just the first few maps alone introduced 3 or 4 new enemy types. I never got too far into it because I got bored quickly and stopped playing.

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I don't hate it, I just thought it was really boring to play through. It ended up being a huge chore to play through it. It was just a ton of back-tracking through the same looking over-complicated looking corridors. The monsters were way overpowered. I stopped at E1M3 before getting completely sick of it and IDCLEV-ed to the next map.

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I didn't like how it took a set of non-linear maps and made them linear. It also made me use the pistol for ages. Visually it's a bit of mixed bag, with some questionable detailing.

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I didn't get further past E1M4 and I found the maps to be way too long and too much detail placed. If you made the maps with less backtracking, remove the custom bestiary and cut out like a third of the detailing, I would have appreciated it more. Oh, and no infighting. Can't have Doom without that.

That and E1M3 took me more than an hour to complete. Not acceptable in recording without splitting the video into 3 or 4 pieces.

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The maps are needlessly large with far too much backtracking; you don't need to have every map a labyrinth. Lack of identifiable landmarks are also an issue with KDiZD; it's easy to get lost. Also, monster encounters in KDiZD were largely uninteresting.

It goes to show what happen if you can't say "enough is enough" when it comes to scope. Having many map makers working together probably didn't help matters.

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DMPhobos said:

My memory is kinda fuzzy, but if i recall correctly someone in the zdoom forums shared a link where the maps were being hosted for the development team. I remember downloading E1M2 and E1M8. E1M8 had this puzzle that was removed of the final version, were you had to walk along the path seen on a mirror. Im not sure if this was the leak that TCIF3 was based on. Anyway, there sure was a shitstorm after it was released

Overall KDiZD it's great, but not without flaws. some of the maps that should had been simpler just were overblown (E1M1 was way too complex for it's own good, and especially E1M3. The whole underground area ruins the whole map in my opinion). having recently played through the mod not so long ago, i found it good. flawed. but overall good. It really had it's moments, and it's maps are beautiful to look. I don't have many hopes now, but im still looking forward to the TSoZD



What would you say is a good replacement to Knee-Knee-deep in Zdoom that I should try instead? As in a mod that adds in the same amount of coding and textures in Knee-deep in Zoom but has very little backtracking as in getting lost and a decent set of enemies?

joe-ilya said:

The new enemies are far too powerful and hard to dodge and kill, lots of long backtracking.
I quit after playing half the wad, because the negative points dragged more than ever each time.


I see what you are saying, but you do realize that is to be expected from a Tormentor667 mod;Stronghold and UTAT both introduced tons of different demons at the beginning of the game, and they helped to establish what made them so fun.

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Grain of Salt said:

Essel where is kdikdizd

it was shelved and replaced with kdikdikdizd, a remake of kdikdizd as a synchronized swimming choreograph

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Bernie said:

What would you say is a good replacement to Knee-Knee-deep in Zdoom that I should try instead? As in a mod that adds in the same amount of coding and textures in Knee-deep in Zoom but has very little backtracking as in getting lost and a decent set of enemies?


I don't know if it has the same amount of coding or not, but my personal favourite Tormentor WAD is City of the Damned: Apocalypse. It requires GZDoom though, just so you're aware.

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I've always felt that the second ZDoom Community Map Project was a much more successful realisation of that vision.

It's huge, complex, detailed, and has its fair share of Realm667 baddies as well, but has a much better, more organic flow. The areas and encounters themselves are more interesting, and it doesn't feel as crammed and disjointed.

Which is a feat, considering the nature of that project.

It has its share of flaws as well, of course (what doesn't), but they generally don't weigh it down as heavily as they do in KDiZD I feel. They've certainly learned a lot from it.

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Neat idea, but the developers lost sight of what they were doing, and let it get way out of hand. Evidenced by the insane levels of detail and the final boss that comes out of nowhere, is totally unnecessary, and doesn't mesh with the other monsters. It's not the worst mod ever, but it was pretty well hyped for a project that had almost no sense of restraint.

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gaspe said:

Layouts were confusing but it was mostly disappointing to see E1 turned into a mass of long corridors.

I think this is representative of how people perceived Doom for a very long time: JUST SHOOT SHIT IN CORRIDORS DUH. I'm glad that this attitude didn't survive in the community for very long, but it has left its mark.

Solarn said:

What I dislike about them is that they not only ignore the limitations of the original Episode 1, which lacked some of the more demonic enemies (Lost Soul, Cacodemon, Baron except for the finale and the bosses), but also ignore any sense of progression of monster difficulty within the episode, pelting the player with Nobles and Cacodemons almost from the start.

Yeah, variety sounds like a good idea until you get a directionless mess.

Bernie said:

I see what you are saying, but you do realize that is to be expected from a Tormentor667 mod;Stronghold and UTAT both introduced tons of different demons at the beginning of the game, and they helped to establish what made them so fun.

I don't think it works equally well for something that claims to allow you to relive E1. A slightly more restrained approach would've been more appropriate in this case (not necessarily while making the maps easy).

Then again, I'm the one who's usually all "more suspense, more suspense".

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esselfortium said:

it was shelved and replaced with kdikdikdizd, a remake of kdikdizd as a synchronized swimming choreograph


What about The Shores of Zdoom?

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esselfortium said:

it was shelved and replaced with kdikdikdizd, a remake of kdikdizd as a synchronized swimming choreograph

So technically Knees Sticking out of the DeadZdoom?

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Speaking of which:

Execution could not continue.

Script error, "kdizd_11.pk3:decorate/decorations.txt" line 996:
SC_GetFloat: Bad numeric constant "0.4?.
With latest ZDoom (or latest 1.x GZDoom).

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