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42PercentHealth

Why Spectres in Liquid?

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Well, in real life, if you're going into a body of water it can be kinda dangerous... Doom doesn't really allow accommodating for that, so I see this as kind of a way to put in more danger in areas the engine should have accommodated for.

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It's not just water, though. Seems like whenever there's a pool of blood, nukage, lava, etc., there's a 75% chance that it contains spectres. They are usually hard to hit because they position themselves directly below you, so only hitscan weapons are effective. Just wondering (from a level design perspective) why this is done so often.

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The liquid's animation may help to hide the Spectre's presence/position, plus there's a precedent from the IWADs that used Spectres this way, particularly in pits (with or without damaging floors), probably as a cheap way to add challenge to exploring those pits or just to make them not seem too empty (monsters with ranged attacks keep harmlessly hitting the sides of the pit while the player is outside the pit, making them more noticeably pointless in there than melee-only monsters, so that Spectre's lack of ranged attack and stealth ability may seem to work well for that role).

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It's harder to make out the shadow of the spectre on an animated floor comprised of dark and light colors.

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TraceOfSpades said:

It's harder to make out the shadow of the spectre on an animated floor comprised of dark and light colors.

That makes some sense, but I think some of the natural rock textures are still harder.

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Some reasons:

  1. what Sesq said. They are essentially Doom's version of piranhas or crocodiles lurking in the water. As most of the time liquids will already be damaging on their own, adding an extra hazard that actually prevents you from leaving the danger zone, esp. one that you cannot see clearly, adds to the "piranha/crocodile" effect.
  2. Pinkies would be just as annoying once you're IN the water/liquid, but not seeing the Spectres immediately may lure a player into jumping into the water more readily, e.g. to pick a bonus or explore a passage.
  3. As areas with liquids will normally be darker than e.g. a hallway or a computer room, they are perfect places to exploit the partial invisibility trick without getting too gimmicky.

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While movement in water doesn't emit sound in vanilla Doom, isn't the menacing sound of splashing water as the invisible threat approaches more or less a horror trope? (Amnesia's Kaernk, FEAR's Replica Assassins, Resident Evil 4's Novistadors,...)

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I find it fascinating that demons are the only monster that ostensibly knows EXACTLY where you are after a blur sphere is acquired. I'm of the opinion that this is because they can become semi-visible themselves, and so of course their eyes have adapted to see their own kind; and with that, anything else on the same wavelength or spectra or whatever.

Perhaps liquid of any form is conducive to their ability to phase out of normal visibility like this (okay, so they don't seem to need it in Doom 64, let's just assume the air is humid and/or damp as fuck; work with me on this one).

Otherwise, what scifista and Maes said.

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It's because Romero standardized it in Knee-deep in the Dead, and because he only used 1 demon in all of Doom 2.

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Jayextee said:

I find it fascinating that demons are the only monster that ostensibly knows EXACTLY where you are after a blur sphere is acquired.

Nah, any monster will still continuously approach you, partial invisibility or no. All it does is make their projectile attacks go crazy - they'll still run to you and hit you with perfectly accurate melee attacks regardless.

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It's because the exit room is occupied by an imp.

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Honestly this is a thing that I find to be pretty lame. Doom has its flaws and its always best to avoid dooms shortcomings or at least try to repurpose glitches in a way that feels like a feature. But trying to clear a jump or drop down and accidentally stopping in midair to fall into the mouths of invisible monsters in a pit is really stupid. I rarely see a good use for it unless they are activated by a monster closet after falling in.

Spectres in general are a pretty shitty monster. My new monitor has such a high resolution that they are much harder to see than they used to be so I often just walk right into bites unknowingly. A totally fun and fair and exciting way to lose health in maps with 3 total stimpacks in it.

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Alfonzo said:

he only used 1 demon in all of Doom 2.


You mean in all of his maps, he only ever placed one demon? Sorry, I hate that the pinky is called a Demon officially...since all of the monsters are demons, it makes distinction difficult at times. What exactly do you mean?

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It is as you suspect. John Romero placed precisely one pinky demon across all of his Doom 2 levels. Map11, northwest staircase.

Doom and Doom 2 in particular have a lot of brain-bending trivia hiding just below the surface regarding their monster, texture and action usage, if you care to look. Trivia like 'there's only one two instances of a door being remotely opened with a key in both IWADs.' The TWiD projects were a goldmine of discovery for this sort of thing; we've written up a catalogue of findings.

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It's really satisfying for the map designer when spectres become all but invisble in the ashwall or liquid background, especially when it's not so dark. Usually they're too easily visible.

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I always assumed it was camouflage. In software rendering at 320x200, the Spectre's invisibility effect is much harder to spot against an animated background, especially in low lighting.

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Thanks for the thoughts, everybody. Sounds like it's just a holdover from Doom 1.

Alfonzo said:

Doom and Doom 2 in particular have a lot of brain-bending trivia hiding just below the surface regarding their monster, texture and action usage, if you care to look. Trivia like 'there's only one two instances of a door being remotely opened with a key in both IWADs.' The TWiD projects were a goldmine of discovery for this sort of thing; we've written up a catalogue of findings.


I'm also curious now. Is there a link to said catalogue of findings?

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Spectres are attracted to dirty places like sewers because the are filthy creatures. This is also why you can't properly see their bodies: they are so disgusting that the world itself rejects them and only allows spectres to exist in this incomplete form.

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Alfonzo said:

It's because Romero standardized it in Knee-deep in the Dead


Sorry to be a nuisance but could you justify this? I checked all the spectres in E1 in a map editor but can't find any in liquid pits or tunnels. Perhaps I'm misunderstanding something.

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RjY said:

Sorry to be a nuisance but could you justify this? I checked all the spectres in E1 in a map editor but can't find any in liquid pits or tunnels. Perhaps I'm misunderstanding something.


Yeah, there's no spectres in the liquid in E1, but E2M1 and E2M3 (Petersen maps) have them. Even then, I'd say that calling it "standardized" is a misnomer since the only other map that has one is E3M3, and there's just as many lost souls placed in liquid as spectres across the original three episodes.

Looking through Doom 2:

MAP03 (McGee): A few spectres in the watery area
MAP04 (McGee): One in the sludge
MAP05 (McGee): Several in the water pit near the end
MAP06 (McGee): Several in the slime pit around the yellow switch island/room
MAP08 (Petersen): One in the sludge
MAP11 (Romero): A couple in the water near the end (but none in all the slime!)
MAP14 (McGee): One in the water
MAP22 (McGee): Several in the slime and lava
MAP25 (Green): Several in blood in blue key room

And then looking at Episode 4:

E4M1 (McGee) has the more classic 'spectre in liquid pit' (as well as several in a blood-floor monster closet).
E4M2 (Romero) has a bunch of them in the dark area with lava detailings to the east, and one in the secret lava staircase near the start.
E4M4 (McGee again) has a few in liquid.
E4M6 (Romero) has a few in the lava hallways entering the main building.
E4M8 (Green) has the classic usage, with a lot in the central lava pit.

So, while a couple happen to show up in Romero and Petersen maps, it seems to just be random chance. I'd say them being placed on purpose in slime, especially in pits, is much more of a McGee (and Green) thing.

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Magnusblitz said:

Yeah, there's no spectres in the liquid in E1, but E2M1 and E2M3 (Petersen maps) have them. Even then, I'd say that calling it "standardized" is a misnomer since the only other map that has one is E3M3, and there's just as many lost souls placed in liquid as spectres across the original three episodes.


Firstly thank you very much for taking the time to write out a list. I am ashamed to say I thought about doing the same but was too idle. :)

I have been wondering for some time where the spectres-in-pits mapping trope came from. Thus far all I was sure of was that the source was unlikely to be the original game. You seem to have reached the same conclusion.

I didn't even consider the spectre on E2M1 as the liquid floor is too shallow to be a pit, you can just immediately retreat. E2M3's nukage wander for a soulsphere, although not exactly a pit, is more typical of the pattern. On the other hand it didn't strike me as distinctive enough to start a trend. E2M3's legacy, if anything, is the grid of perpetual moving floors.

Plutonia makes repeated use of the trope with examples on several maps in the most explicit form: a pit with a damaging liquid or lava floor, no way to immediately escape if entered, populated entirely or mostly with spectres. However I would be surprised if it were not already an established pattern in PWADs before Final Doom was released.

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'Standardized' is definitely the wrong word to use, in hindsight, yes. There aren't any examples of ostensible pits and ledges with the sort of monster placement that we can draw a straight line to more modern usage from. However, I do still think that Knee-deep has helped to shape this trope by association.

Something like E1M5's opening is a bit of a bonus when we're arguing the pulling power of E1 in this discussion, but it does highlight the monster's effectiveness in one particular environment that KDitD has in abundance, and it is a very memorable scene (it's in the demo! sort of!). Given that E1 has so many spectres when you get past M4 (save for in M7, which has a solitary one(!)) and how little these monsters feature en mass in later episodes where entire tracts of damaging floor are not Sandy's forte, I don't think it's a stretch to suppose that people conjoin the idea of liquids and invisible demons. It's purely connotative.

If nothing else, I'd argue that the false memory of there being more spectres placed in E1's myriad slimeways than in reality (zero) demonstrates just how much Romero has us by the gonads. Or... maybe I'm the only one to make this error :)

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When a mapper is deciding how to place enemies according to their strengths, it's not difficult to notice the spectre is much better concealed in animated flats.

It's not clever anymore though, if it ever was. The overall effect is the player knows "oh I have to walk in the liquid, and there's going to be spectres" - and there always are.

Perhaps plutonia's biggest legacy is its high difficulty : low enemy count, and this is well respected and deservedly so. So a lot of people aim for that but in the process we become formulaic and predictable and I would argue boring. Sometimes (which is always) it's OK to just let the player mow down a huge helpless horde with a shitload of ammo ;-)

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Vorpal said:

It's not clever anymore though, if it ever was. The overall effect is the player knows "oh I have to walk in the liquid, and there's going to be spectres" - and there always are


Kinda like after every chainsaw pickup there's an obligatory Pinky Chainsaw Massacre, or every door you open results in angry screams and growls. That's just the way Doom is, really ;-) Or at least one of its many forms.

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