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I bet that got your attention.
I haven't discussed anything Doom-ish since my original blog. I've been wanting to get around to doing this blog for a while, but for reasons soon to be revealed I never did.
Before Doom, there was Lemmings. I discovered Lemmings on the Amiga and got obsessed by it. Those who knew me during school at the time would probably tell you about the fucking idiot that made noises that sounded just like the game. Those in my english class would probably tell you about the speech that we had to write about how to do something - I chose Lemmings and added all the sounds (consequently, the speech I wrote out was perfectly scripted down to how the audience would react). Those who were wondering why I stopped making the sounds one day are probably still under the assumption that I finally realised what a moron I was. I had infact found a new game to obsess over. August 1994 was when I first played Doom.
Let's backtrack a bit though. As far back as I remember, there were always games in my house. According to my father, there were games there before I was born. Games have always been a part of me. I am one of a new generation who has grown up with games. I am a part of a first of a kind. Wankers are happy to call us Generation Dot Com, but it's much deeper than that. Those who are proud to call themselves a part of that generation are, in most circumstances, those who considered computers geeky back when they were kids. Those people are the same that call up people like me to fix their computer when it's broken, and those who go to college to learn IT because there's money in IT or some other equally shallow reason.
I was somewhat naive even though I grew up around computers. I complacently accepted the fact that computers had games I could get that I could play and enjoy. It was only when my dad sold our Commodore 64 to our cousins and revealed the books he had hidden away all those years about making your own games did I realise that you can in fact make your own games. With the Commodore and the books gone, I had no way of finding out just how to do that. Over the next couple of years, I tried to find out whatever I could about making my own games. Dad would buy a magazine that had some making-games-type-stuff in it, so I would futilely attempt to understand it. I latched on quite easier to game makers though, and my first attempts at creating games were with the completely-limited-in-scope Shoot 'Em Up Construction Kit.
August 1994 saw my dad purchase a PC. A week or two later, he got a shareware copy of Doom. It looked completely photo realistic to me at the time, and in retrospect it has some of the best art direction seen in any game ever (especially episode 1, it just works so flawlessly). The gameplay back then was completely spooky, as you were truly walking in to the unknown. Once you knew everything, it turned in to the fast paced monster-fest that most people attribute it to these days, but back then you would jump when an invisible demon roared next to you, and move physically as you tried to dodge a rocket. It worked. And it had me hooked.
A year later, my dad gota CD that had bonus levels. And editors.
If you have any sort of a brain at all, you should know what the result of that was. If you're stupid, press ALT+F4 now and a secret thing will show up that will tell you what the answer is.
Never before had I been able to edit a game. I was like a kid in a candy store (if you'll allow me to use an over-used and utterly meaningless cliche, as kids in a candy store are always limited by both their parents minds and their wallets and thus the kids are always disappointed - but that isn't the point I was trying to make by using that over-used cliche). I tried to consume it all. The lack of anyone there made learning just as hard as not having anyone there who knew programming when I tried a few years earlier. However, I delved into the depths of the CD and found info that would help me in understanding what needed to be done to make my own levels, graphics, and everything for this game. I started to show some competence in my isolated, self-taught methods. I started doing things I hadn't seen in any of the maps that were on the CD, and there was even one thing I did that I still haven't seen in a map to this day (that being skill-based teleport destinations, although I did take that to extremes with the Marine Lemmings level in Doom - The Arcade Game). All those old levels are lost now to father's finger combined with the delete key. I can still remember the layout of the levels though. They sucked.
In the dieing year-and-a-half of high school, I was finally introduced to programming proper. I got a taste of what it could do, and was instantly doing stuff that the rest of the class wasn't doing. I knew I wanted to do more, and after years of deciding what kind of career I wanted to pursue once high school was done, I finally realised that if I learnt programming I would have the power to make my own games, and if I was good I could do it for a living. Despite being in a shitty-dumb-fucks computer class (thanks to the fact that I didn't hand in my subject selection form the previous year until it was two months overdue), I managed to worm my way in to a higher level class thanks to the fact that one of the few people I truly got along with in high school wanted to do a computer course that wasn't offered at the school at the time. The course was completely devoted to programming. I had to do it. He convinced the school to do the course, and I convinced the principle that being the only person in the school to drop courses and pick up others so I could do this course wasn't a bad thing. Maybe there were some teachers working behind the scenes in my favour though - my marks in high school started off as good and declined as I lost interest in everything they had to offer (excepting science, I was always fascinated by that) - but I guess I won't know unless they do one of those silly high school reunion things and a teacher confesses.
Despite the fact that I never did my assigned homework and nearly got kicked out of that course because of it, concentrated solely on the game I was writing for the major assessment, and read through half of the theory offered a day before the end of school exams, the school was able to print out on its fliers it sent out the next year that both students who undertook that course were placed in the top 10 percent of the state.
It was an important year. In 1998, I learnt some basic computer science and how to apply that in regards to programming langauges - something that people I met later on weren't introduced to and consequently didn't understand things properly. I went past what the course offered and delved in to slightly higher concepts. I made a game complete with ASCII art and a data driven format. Surprisingly, the game worked quite bug free, but I still wasn't happy with it. A month after the final exams was devoted to rewriting the game with proper graphics, a slightly larger playing field, improved monster AI, and not much else.
As further trends in my life would show though, peaks are usually followed by quite large valleys.
In the three years in between 1998 and the course I did in 2002, the following things happened: did a TAFE course just so I could have a piece of paper that proved what I already knew; parents split up; realised that girls that are in to the geeky shit you are in to are just as horrible as the girls that aren't; realised that the geeky shit I was in to was quite pathetic in alot of circumstances; tried another TAFE course, gave up after two weeks, and hid it from my parents who still don't know despite the fact that mum was going out with an IT teacher from a different TAFE campus at the time and after dad had paid $500 for it; let my mind get affected by loneliness and usher in a new mindset; got a girlfriend who dumped me 10 days later; let my mind get affected by the humiliation of being dumped by your first girlfriend after 10 days and finally realise that my life down there was going downhill; decided that it was finally time to learn what I needed to make games full time and moved states to undertake a course that I wasn't sure I was going to get in to.
During my last year in Sydney, I took up the Doom editing that I had left behind when I learnt programming. I figured it would be a good idea to experiment with gameplay and using technology to fuel gameplay. I discovered ZDoom and decided that would be perfect for what I wanted to do. I used my memories of what I did back in the day, worked out quite quickly what was crap, looked around the community to see what the standard was, and went and made a teaser for chapter 4 of The Doom Chronicles. The Doom Chronicles was meant to be a filler for the lack of story in Doom. These days I think fan fiction is quite lame and pointless, but back then I was experimenting. The teaser was met with no fanfare, and I think Rex was the only one who played it at the time. Even one person was enough to keep me going, so I experimented some more.
One of those experiments was quite possibly the coolest idea to ever hit the Doom community.
I was experimenting with the episode 1 style, as one of the Doom Chronicles chapters was all about the marines that went in ahead of the main character from Doom. The idea of using tech to fuel gameplay came in the form of an idea I had. I think it was about a time bomb. The gist of the idea was what would happen if you played Doom with an enforced time limit? I gave it a try and realised it gave it quite an arcade-ish feel. I experimented more with scripting and got enemies and power-ups giving you extra time, thus making it feel even more arcade-ish. I put in differing skill levels, with the intention of making the ultra-violence skill level challenging for me. Unfortunately, just about everyone plays on UV so the main complaint was that it was too hard despite the fact I told everyone to play at "normal" arcade skill. The fact that arcade machines have DIP switches that can alter the difficulty of the game dramatically ended out being a convenient excuse I never used for the difficulty. Without a clear goal though, the maps would have been boring. Enter the heavilly scripted sequences and the complete rewrite of the Doom storyline that would later prove to work well with the stuff I had already written for The Doom Chronicles. Back when I first got the arcade idea, I thought of lots of cool mini-game style levels. The first level didn't stick to that idea in the slightest, but the mini-games were too cool to pass up. Enter the bonus levels. I needed a teaser to hook people with. Screenshots and the concept had stirred up some interest, but not enough. Enter the completely scripted in-game intro to Doom that followed the original story introduction pretty closely - even down to striking your superior officer three years earlier. Doom's 8th birthday was coming up. A release date was set. Doom - The Arcade Game Release 1 was released on the 10th of December, 2001. It blew the community away.
Fuelled with community support and ideas left over from D-TAG, I started experimenting again. The ZDoom editing community was quite impressed when I showed off the fake space-ship-flight trick using the camera paths I had mastered in D-TAG and applying that to a skybox viewer. The example map can still be found on Randy's ZDoom server to this day. The computer I whipped up for the final section of D-TAG needed further experimenting. I console bound some keys to a simple script that would scroll through text choices displayed using the at-the-time-underused hud text functions. The speech script was born in under 12 hours. Gears in my head were shifting, tieing the D-TAG story together with The Doom Chronicles. A sequel set 10 years later was born. I set to work on it, but work soon stopped when I found out I was accepted in to the course I wanted to do.
2002 was a hell of a year, another one of those peak years. I did virtually nothing Doom related. The original idea with The Gateway Experiments was to release one a week in a TV-show style episode format. That proved to not work in the slightest. I was doing full time programming again and learning a horrendous amount of new concepts. The concepts thankfully clicked half way through the course, so I was free to experiment with coding. Experimenting with things that are 100% your own creation is quite superior to experimenting with technology you already know the limits to and regularly exploit. I had no initiative to complete The Gateway Chronicles, and even attempts to finish it only ended out in the map getting bigger and bigger with no end in sight. As my programming improved, my mindset changed again. I was one of the top programmers of the course, but I felt like I was one of the worst. I could experiment with code all I wanted, but I felt hollow. I felt like a machine, and no one was there for me to provide me with humanity. After the course had finished, it all came to a climax. My mindset had changed radically throughout the year. I knew less than some people at the beginning of the year yet knew an immense amount more than the same people at the end of the year. None of that stopped me from nearly sticking a knife in my wrists. I managed to stop myself from continuing. Not long after, I watched Fight Club for the first time and it echoed many thoughts in my mind that I had not put words to. I started to see purpose in my life, but it was not yet completely clear to me.
Around the same time as all that was happening, I got a job thanks to one of the programs I had worked on during the course. I decided that I should finish The Gateway Experiments at all costs, and finally it got released a couple of weeks later. I aimed to make a seamless, flawless level. How many people fell down the busted elevator shaft and noticed that you did indeed fall five floors, that it looked like you fell five floors, and that one of the floors had a slightly open door that you could see through? How many people used the draw-no-flat water surface thing and have a teleporter seamlessly teleport you to an identical section of air duct to seamlessly fall down a floor? How many people have gone through all possible paths in that level? It was compared to Deus Ex when it landed a slot in the Top Ten Maps For 2003 list for Doom's 10th anniversary. I doubt it had the same effect on the community that D-TAG did, but it still managed to blow people away.
In between the time I got my job and now has been another one of those valleys. I've only recently noticed the trend, and I can already see the peak that I'm climbing towards. It's a fucking huge climb though. It's all to do with my purpose in life. My purpose in life is to shake up the games industry. Right now, the industry is completely stale. There are plenty of misconceptions out there right now - things like the games you can buy off the shelves are good (only true for a select handful of titles), and that it takes a large team to make a good game. I'm out to prove that wrong now. Currently, I'm biding my time working to put games on the shelves, but it has the double effect of being a good place to observe and learn what not to do. The independent game scene is currently quite pathetic (although it has produced Gish within the past month, which is the best game I've played in a long time). The shelf-space game scene is also quite pathetic, but in a different way. We need a new Apogee, or at least a top quality independent developer that will be an icon for all aspiring developers to look up to.
And there lies the entire point of my calling this blog to the attention of those that enjoyed my maps. This blog marks the offical retirement of myself from all things Doom-mapping related. If I tried to lie to myself and keep with Doom editing, I'd just be holding myself back in the long run. I regularly get emails saying that they can't wait for the next <insert project here> map. I haven't replied to any of them as I couldn't bring myself to tell them there probably won't be any more. I finally stopped giving a fuck about my own insecurities to write out this huge blog to tell people what the deal is. The only regret I have is that I didn't get to finish The Gateway Experiments. The complete story for that is quite possibly one of the coolest Doom-based stories used in a project to ever hit the Doom community, and would have pushed the tech-gameplay thing even further.
The climb to the top of the peak sure is a lonely one, but at least I can take comfort in the knowledge that the tumble back down will be just as lonely.