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Jaxxoon R

The True Meaning of Plutonia

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There's been countless sequels to Plutonia with the goal of recreating the design and gameplay style of the Plutonia Iwad. But what exactly is the design of Plutonia? What elements make up the whole that is Plutonia? Is it the earthy steel-and-mortar textures? Is it the revenants and chaingunners? Is it a specific structure to level design? What is the most Plutonia aspect of any specific Plutonia?

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How I see Plutonia is a mapset that doesn't focus on being realistic. Rather, it is purely abstract and action-oriented. The maps are designed specifically for a challenge and loosely follow what little plot the IWAD has.

Also:

  • Green vines/grass and brown bricks dominate the aesthetics.
  • There are high numbers of chaingunners and revenants.
  • There seems to be a general abundance of orthogonal walls with perfect circular-curved walls.

That is Plutonia in my eyes.

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Plutonia maps are heavily stylized rip-offs of the highest order; the one quality that most every imitator tends to overlook, or at least underestimate. Every second map is an area, concept or texture theme ripped wholesale from Doom or Doom 2. There's plenty more to it than that, of course, but one cannot be ready to assess the rest of its identity without first grasping this ultimate crux.

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I think the 'true' meaning of Plutonia will differ depending on who you ask, because mileage may vary with everything. Always. Subjectivity innit.

To me, Plutonia is DOOM as an arcade game.

Short levels (except Tombstone and Impossible Mission, coincidentally some of my least favourite of the bunch), steep difficulty, it's pretty arcade-y to me; with a decent control device may not have been too out of place in a cabinet back in mid-1996 or whatever.

The homage, I can dig. In fact as an official Doom sequel (it kinda is, albeit not a numbered one) it has in common with an R-Type or Gradius game callbacks and homages to its own more memorable moments. And that's probably why I love it so much; you stick a lives system in there (Megasphere = 1up? :P) and the levels are (mostly) short enough that restarting isn't a too much ballache upon death.

Of course, I'll say again, mileage can and will vary depending on whom you ask. ;)

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In today's day and time it's easy to lose sight of the true meaning of Plutonia and one special night. When we go shopping we say "How much will it cost?" then the true meaning of Plutonia somehow becomes lost. Amidst the tinsel and glitter, and ribbons of hold, we forget about the Megawad born on a night so cold. The doomers look for Romero in his big red sleigh, never thinking of the Megawad whose bed was made of hay. In reality, when we look into the night sky, we don't see a sleigh but a star, burning bright and high. A faithful reminder of that night so long ago, and of the Megawad we call Plutonia whose love the world would know.

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I think Jayextee got it right. Plutonia is Doom at its most arcadey.

It's not massive monster hordes. It's not merely difficult gameplay. It's small maps with, punchy, frantic gameplay designed to pressure the player at a constant rate.

This is then reinforced by a near uniform design style that allows each map to focus primarily on the gameplay as structure is mostly used to facilitate it instead of merely to exist for structure sake.

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I figured it was just elaborate trolling by some mappers. You know, like a Terry wad sans the whimsy.

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Plutonia sort of eschews the atmospheric and explorationy parts of Doom in favor of a series of arena-centric set piece battles. Secret areas and resource management are really downplayed, it basically just gives you a ton of health and ammo and tests your combat skills in, as Tarnsman and Jayextee said, a really stripped-down arcadey way. The clever map design and strong aesthetic is just the icing on the cake, it's really about sharpening the game's combat to its absolute finest point.

If Ultimate Doom is Unreal, Plutonia is sort of like Unreal Tournament.

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Jayextee said:

To me, Plutonia is DOOM as an arcade game.

This is a pretty good description I think. I've never looked at it that way before. While I'm not really a fan of Plutonia, I will admit that it doesn't fuck around. The revenants and chaingunners are both monsters that have the ability to sap your health very quickly if not carefully avoided. A couple of revenant rockets can kill a player previously at 100% health and a few seconds under fire from a chaingunner can do the same.

If you compare to the gameplay in the original Doom episodes - with the monsters there, it's a much more linear damage curve. What I mean is that, if you run into a room full of enemies, the damage you're likely to suffer in taking them out is proportional to the number of enemies (at worst maybe it's a quadratic function). Doom's health means that dying is a gradual process, a linear scale. If you have 10% health then you're 90% dead.

Compare that with arcade games like Asteroids, Space Invaders, or Contra is the most obvious comparison - these are games where there is no health, one hit means death and you must avoid ever being hit or you lose a life. With Plutonia, the basic game and health mechanics have not changed, but the choice of enemies makes damage much more like a step function - the kind you'd find in those arcade games.

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Gifty said:

If Ultimate Doom is Unreal, Plutonia is sort of like Unreal Tournament.

That comparison only makes sense if we are considering Unreal's multiplayer portion. You don't see Plutonia being Single Player only, do ya?

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fraggle said:

Compare that with arcade games like Asteroids, Space Invaders, or Contra is the most obvious comparison - these are games where there is no health, one hit means death and you must avoid ever being hit or you lose a life. With Plutonia, the basic game and health mechanics have not changed, but the choice of enemies makes damage much more like a step function - the kind you'd find in those arcade games.


That's a good way of putting it. Plutonia (in)famously introduced the concept of "death traps" that quickly kill an unprepared player that doesn't respond correctly or fast enough. Seen as early as map01 with the double Chaingunners that ambush you from behind in a hallway. If you simply run forward as normal, you're likely to get shredded or lose a bunch of health.

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Plutonia is a difficulty wall. It starts ramming you with chaingunners, revenants and the ilk right from the very first level and it never lets up. From beginning to end, you're in for relentless, adrenaline-charged insanity. Nevertheless, many of us dare to come back to receive more of the punishment it dishes out, whether it be for bragging rights or because we are skilled enough for it, not to mention the overall level design makes it pretty addicting. Unlike Evilution which had emphasis on realism, Plutonia emphasises abstract and natural designs. The Casali Brothers implemented architecture that is familiar yet fresh. Dario had a lot of John Romero's mapping sensibilities while still letting us know that he's found his voice, and Milo takes after Tom Hall with rooms/arenas that fluctuate from curvy, to circular, to boxy, and they're mostly connected by corridors. Plutonia is also loaded with homages; Caughtyard being essentially Dead Simple, both Caged and The Twilight being the answer to The Abandoned Mines, Impossible Mission being a Knee-Deep styled map, and the epic Odyssey of Noises being an amalgamation of Downtown and Industrial Zone, but that's just a small portion of the myriad of inspirations.

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The real Plutonia is the fiends you made along the way.

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Plutonia's only real style is that it's the master's edition of Doom, where they quit trying to appear fair or reasonable and just throw everything they can at you in an attempt to kill you.

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"fair and reasonable" was more like the first Doom but not including the fourth episode.

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For the most part, I thought Doom II had a fairly reasonable difficulty curve. Sure, some levels can be difficult if you don't know what you're doing but I venture that any of them can be beaten on UV on a Pistol Start if you know how to tackle the level. For instance, Tricks and Traps becomes a lot more interesting if you start out with just your pistol and have to navigate the level's tricks in order to arm yourself properly to deal with the required hordes in order to get to the exit.

That's not to say Plutonia's levels can't potentially be pistol started from start to finish, they usually give you enough weapons so it's not completely hopeless.

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MetroidJunkie said:

Plutonia's only real style is that it's the master's edition of Doom, where they quit trying to appear fair or reasonable and just throw everything they can at you in an attempt to kill you.

That's funny, I was just thinking that about TNT. It feels like Master Levels: the megawad to me

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I would say Plutonia even more so than TNT. TNT seems to have a lot of hitscanners but Plutonia has that in addition to Revanants galore.

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"Arcade". That's my main problem with Plutonia. Even though the first impression is one of "Thy Flesh Consumed" (thanks to the textures and the nostalgic Doom 1 music), it's over-saturated with heavy obstacles, hates the player and lacks the variable pacing needed to keep the player both comfortable and tense. It's just all tense and edgy.

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Plutonia is "Speed". There are a few other good maps too, but "Speed" just wins. Texturing, layout, gameplay, gameplay, gameplay.

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I'm not sure I follow the arcade game description or the belief that its a mapset where all rules are out the window and its a deliberate attempt to punish the player.

I understand that Plutonia was created in a pretty short amount of time compared to most other wads, including Doom 1 and 2, and perhaps it was meant to be arcadey from the designers perspective. But as a player I perceive Plutonia to have much more depth and thematic consistency than Doom 2 does and even most megawads today, and i feel the label of an arcade game seems to discredit its mystical atmosphere with the idea of it being a shameless knock-off of doom designed suck the quarters out of your pocket had it been a coin-operated arcade cabinet game.

Plutonia is this interesting collision of UAC teleport technology and military outposts with ancient ruins and desolation. Its hard to decide if its a different planet or an alternate dimension, but it does well to depict a land that's been uninhabited by man for hundreds, maybe thousands of years. Ancient villages, caves, castles, tombs, forts, overrun by vegetation and the paranormal do better to characterize the evil Doom beasts that have dominated it than the original Doom campaign does. I find it to be the ultimate test of the Doom guys survival skills as he is unforgivenly dumped in a land far far away from human civilization, only lightly charted by the demolished UAC recon. A primal land full of traps, snares, poison darts, spikes, sacrificial burial grounds, and deity worship. All of which are dominated by the ancient spirits that possess the demons that now roam the land.

Its certainly designed to be hard but the contention that its designed to kill you is silly, as any level designer knows how easy it is cram you in a tiny room full of Cyberdemons and archviles and crushing ceilings with no weapons. The gratuitous usage of power weapons, higher tier monsters, and powerups is explicitly there for fun, not for torture. I dont know if "Doom as an arcade game" is fit to do Plutonia justice as my interpretation finds that to be quite shallow and dismissive of the narrative that can be gleaned from its beautifully crafted design.

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Plutonia is mostly about managing pressure. You're thrown into some seriously tricky situations and you have to figure out the best way through it until the end. There is generally no relief until that time, as the action is almost constant. They're a form of puzzle, only with guns.

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40oz said:

I dont know if "Doom as an arcade game" is fit to do Plutonia justice as my interpretation finds that to be quite shallow and dismissive of the narrative that can be gleaned from its beautifully crafted design.


Given that the statement originated in this thread from me, let me just throw down some context:

I grew up around arcades, and wanted to make arcade games as a child. When I map, they're generally short and (sometimes) intense experience because I love to emulate the 'arcade way' of doing things. When I make my own games, they're very much like arcade experiences. I admire arcade-style game design, and do not in the slightest subscribe to the "shallow, without depth" view many have of arcade games (hell, I'm a fighting game and shmup player -- I know very well it's all too often the exact opposite). When I say "Plutonia is Doom as an arcade game", to me it's paying it a high compliment and actually acknowledging its "beautifully crafted design" (a point on which I agree). Just because it's not a slow-burner and makes its intentions clear upfront, does not mean it's shallow or lacking in worth.

But it's not for everyone in the same way arcade games aren't; and for many of the same reasons (to reiterate, short and intense, often cruel, throwbacks to iconic moments from the series thus far, etc).

And I dare say, Plutonia being Doom-as-an-arcade-game is probably the reason I'm such a big fan of it (check out Murderous Intent, Sinister Intention, Nex Credo, even my current The Becoming -- all have those iconic Plutonia start/end teleporter pads).

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Jayextee said:

Given that the statement originated in this thread from me, let me just throw down some context:

I grew up around arcades, and wanted to make arcade games as a child. When I map, they're generally short and (sometimes) intense experience because I love to emulate the 'arcade way' of doing things. When I make my own games, they're very much like arcade experiences. I admire arcade-style game design, and do not in the slightest subscribe to the "shallow, without depth" view many have of arcade games (hell, I'm a fighting game and shmup player -- I know very well it's all too often the exact opposite). When I say "Plutonia is Doom as an arcade game", to me it's paying it a high compliment and actually acknowledging its "beautifully crafted design" (a point on which I agree). Just because it's not a slow-burner and makes its intentions clear upfront, does not mean it's shallow or lacking in worth.

But it's not for everyone in the same way arcade games aren't; and for many of the same reasons (to reiterate, short and intense, often cruel, throwbacks to iconic moments from the series thus far, etc).

And I dare say, Plutonia being Doom-as-an-arcade-game is probably the reason I'm such a big fan of it (check out Murderous Intent, Sinister Intention, Nex Credo, even my current The Becoming -- all have those iconic Plutonia start/end teleporter pads).

I agree with your stance on Plutonia, because to me, arcade games deliver a very unique and thrilling experience, and Plutonia is a megawad that gives off the same kind of vibe through its design and gameplay. I acknowledge that it does have a storyline as 40oz pointed out, but then again, so did a good number of the classic arcade games like Double Dragon, Battletoads, Ghosts n Goblins, Magic Sword, the list goes on. Even so, that didn't really matter, cause Plutonia had more emphasis on action rather than storytelling, which is much more fitting to the way TNT is set up. Not to mention that between the two brothers, Milo Casali has a design style that is very arcade-like, complete with Tom Hallesque geometry and layout (circular/curvy rooms and arenas interconnected by passageways). There's also the difficulty, Plutonia always felt like it catered to the veterans of Doom. No novice player would really stand a chance, and even in the lowest difficulties, it's still relentless. That makes it very arcade-like as well, cause many of us who have played arcade games can remember how very nasty they are, yet the fun factor makes us come back for more.

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Aight, here is what bugs me with Plutonia.

A lot of people would spit on unknown mappers for using the same method as Plutonia did, yet praise Plutonia all the way. And not like "Hooo you copy plutonia how dare you", but just like...

Lets say some guy decides to release his wad, which is quite pretty tense in gameplay, much monotonous with enemies, puts in a trap or two... soon people critize how the map puts too much of a pressure on them, or how enemies make no sense, or how traps shouldn't even be a thing, then the same people praise Plutonia for its "master this for that and this for this and these for those and those for this" whatever.

I simply don't understand the hype over Plutonia. Is it because its old? Because its approved by the id dudes? I get the "arcadey" style, but to me, the map pack was pretty much the same stuff as usual. Is there some kind of trend or fetish or secret going around the community, some secret wall in this and that map that says "if you made it here you rule everyone else sux" or what?

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I don't think there is much universal hype surrounding Plutonia. Around these parts, it's both loved and loathed in good measure; probably more people are apathetic, to be honest.

As for "spitting on" maps aping the approach, Plutonia 2, PRCP and Urania were all well-received. I don't know from where you're getting that.

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