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Demon of the Well

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  1. Demon of the Well

    Crouching Tiger?!

    Other than hitscanners (which strike a "random" point within a given target field, relative to actor positions at the time of the attack), monsters in Doom have "perfect" aim, without fail -- they will always fire at exactly where you're standing (i.e. directly at your hitbox), and if you remain static, you'll be hit. There are certain fringe cases where they can miss as a result of being at certain elevation/distance differences relative to your position -- a recent consistent-ish 'real world' example of this I remember seeing is that if you remain stock-still at the start of m05 in Jaska's "Lost Civilization", the arachnatron who begins firing at you from the top of a roof much deeper in the map will see its shots just barely pass over the top of your head/hitbox -- but generally speaking projectile-firing monsters can be considered to always accurately target your position at the moment they fire, no matter the angle or distance (and irrespective of terrain or obstacles which might be in the way, provided they're considered by the engine to have line-of-sight). Interestingly, by and large this continued to be true of projectile-firing creatures in games which came out well after Doom itself did (i.e. into the Build and Quake eras), and even holds true for such creatures to a large (though not quite so absolute) degree even in present-day FPS games, whether they be 'retro' or 'modern' in style. I don't know for sure, since crouching is an almost entirely superfluous and combat-irrelevant feature even in 99% of WADs for sourceports which allow it, but I'd readily surmise (i.e. I'd bet money) that crouching will not change the maxim of perfect creature aim as a general rule, especially as far as the possibility of having it cause shots to go slightly 'wild' is concerned -- this is almost certainly just your imagination, at least if we're talking about stock gameplay (and not a game with other mods also in effect). What I *could* see happening is that being in a crouch would presumably cause your hitbox (which the monsters aim perfectly at under normal conditions) to shift down slightly on the z-axis, which might slightly increase the rare vertical 'misfire' range mentioned above in some particular circumstances.(?) I'm not sure if all ports which allow crouching actually make this shift in calculation, but in my limited experience with crouching in Doom, (G)ZDoom at least seems to, at any rate (which, as other posters have said, can in some circumstances allow you to crouch-duck shots fired at you, provided they were fired pre-crouch). (there are some asterisks here -- i.e. mancubi don't target all six shots in a volley at you, with three hardcoded to fly wide relative to your position at the moment of release; revenant tracker missiles obviously follow somewhat different/special rules, and of course hitscanners are a different ballgame, etc.)
  2. Demon of the Well

    The DWmegawad Club plays: MAYhem 2019 & Alienated

    That happened to me once too, and in just the same way (reading a backlog of DWMC and Screenshot thread posts). I don't know what the limit is, but it refreshes 24 hours from whenever it started tracking (as opposed to 24 hours from when you hit the limit).
  3. Demon of the Well

    The DWmegawad Club plays: MAYhem 2019 & Alienated

    Map 08 -- Soul Over Gun - 100% Kills / 100% Secrets This map is something of a departure for the set. Another of the smaller/shorter maps, it dispenses with the hub + fork/spoke setup treating keys acting as completion tokens that most of the other maps use, favoring instead a more clearly linear path which routes you through ideas and encounters in a set order. Thing placement in the map also strikes me as much more deliberate than in most of the others; in part this may be because the map uses no truly large arenas (or large 'in-between' spaces of the sort that dominated m07) and thus doesn't confront the author with the (very real) challenge of filling them out, but even facets of the experience such as the way ammo quantities and placements interact with minor encounters reads as much more actively/thoughtfully balanced for most of the duration (at least from pistol-start), though the big healing pile before the last fight in the recessed pit does smack a bit of "fuck I don't know, guess this works?" As a result, the map is an experience evincing a stronger sense of the hidden hand behind the curtain, of being toyed with, which is perhaps most directly embodied in-game by the short sequences of running along briefly/faintly glowing paths of light cutting through stark black voids. Alienated is at no point a mapset which ever feels truly sinister, intimidating or oppressive (and most of the time I don't think it strives for this, to be fair), but the use of unusual ideas and imagery (lots of 'statue' enemies presaging major fights and whatnot) and the more deliberate, slower-burning tone of the action does read as something just a little refreshingly darker than seen elsewhere in the set. While more compact in build and generally subdued in nature vs. the host of big neon coliseums which tends to dominate most of the set, the visuals nicely suit this subtle shift in tone as well -- the look is still very colorful, yet not nearly so 'promenade' in tone, skewing towards saturate blues and greens with more of a temple/sanctuary look and a backdrop of stars, darkness, and void, contrasting markedly with the bright, clean spacebases on the planet surface. As aforesaid, the encounters here are in general much smaller than in most of the other maps, or perhaps it might be more accurate to say that they initially seem smaller due to the way they're framed. On second examination, the numbers of monsters used in most major encounters isn't too dissimilar from that seen in a lot of the milder/underbaked encounters from the bigger maps, but they function more effectively in general because they fit the smaller, more constrained spaces much more comfortably than a big arena. My nod for pick of the litter would be the fight in the green armor room with 3D-floor walkways over a pool of liquid below, where the cacodemons and hell knights make a rather effective combination given how surprisingly well the knights will path over the walkways (outside of ZDoom, features with a similar look/function tend not to be traversable by enemies, and even in the realm of ZDoom such things have tended to be much more often used as 'bling' than as meaningful room flow features). While simple/short, the light-running sequences add nice transitional breaks between areas, most analogous perhaps to the repeated slaloms through the big central cavern in m06. On 2nd visit I see that I initially misinterpreted these (I thought that the platforms literally stopped existing when not lit up for some reason) and so was flailing through the second one with monsters a mite more frantically than necessary, but that one's on me, not the author. Map 09 -- Ascension - 100% Kills / 100% Secrets For the big sendoff, we have another expansive, more adventure-ish level ala m06, again returning to the familiar key-fork structure. As rdwpa says, this is very much a level with two distinct halves (the key-fork, and then the final pair of segments which they unlock), and over the duration it embodies both the mapset's best qualities and its most pronounced shortcomings in about equal measure. First, the good: after being introduced to the hub via a bit of how'd 'y doo (which doesn't really use or justify the space, but that's an issue for later), we cross the rather striking girder-bridge into the last big base, where the fork proper presents itself. Both paths feature a series of (mostly) thoughtfully-designed encounters of various scales which present an entertaining degree of variety between them. These range from bloody, empowering you-vs.-horde moshes in both arenas and more conspicuously enclosed spaces, to a selection of more conceptually playful scenarios both classic and modern, ala the 'under fire' Temple-of-Doom-y sequence on the tall stone walkways along the RK path, or the hall of 'statue sentinels' along the YK path, respectively. This phase of the map is Alienated at its best -- fast-paced encounters with enough of a soft touch to make them accessible to a wide audience, but with enough spice/energy to appeal to more experienced players as well, all thoughtfully tailored to the wide variety of big, colorful spaces hosting them. It's a very inviting take on modern Doom, something like the leisure/low-stress/comfort food appeal of certain PWAD tropes of yesteryear, rephrased in more contemporary gameplay language. Using the pair of keys in the hub unlocks the path to the end, at the same time introducing something which feels like it's supposed to be a 'boss' encounter, vs. a pair of cyberdemon, a pair of arch-viles, and a handful of other smallfry. Assuming you choose to deal with them rather than simply ignoring them and pressing on (only the vile nearest the switches really needs to be dealt with), what you're presented is an encounter design that, given the vast amount of space available, and vast degree of armament available to you by that point in the map, reads nearly at doom.wad levels of quaintness (this is on skill 4, mind -- I'd hate to see what skill 2 looks like). Unless you are well and truly a god-awful Doom player--yes yes, several of you may say this of yourselves, but I don't believe 9/10 of you!--those poor creatures stand no chance. Even if combined together with all of the creatures which initially inhabit the hub yard, they'd still stand no chance, and still be dwarfed by the space they inhabit, which is at this point an especially pronounced instance of something the mapset has repeatedly struggled with. Now, this is only the hub, of course, and only the halfway point of the map, so at this point we may choose to give the benefit of the doubt, interpreting this as a reasonable pacing decision -- perhaps the intention is for the map not to blow its load all at once, or to avoid having the last leg turn into a grueling grind. Fair enough! So how does this end up panning out? Beyond the key-locked barrier, we traverse a colorful canyon reminiscent of those from m07, but more unearthly. It's a spot of sightseeing, mainly, and while I'd say the encounters here might fairly be described as 'filler', it's not really offensive filler, and again, this might fairly be interpreted as a sequence which exists for pacing/buildup purposes, before the grand finale. Again, fair enough. Where things really fall apart is the finale......which isn't one. It just isn't, friends and neighbors. It's another large arena, or technically an arena within an arena, some kind of mysterious alien-tech monument which eventually turns out to house one of the most stylish chambers in the WAD within. Fair enough. The problem is, the first phase of the area represents a compounded version of the persistent oversize/underdesign issue mentioned above/throughout this playthrough. The total number of creatures here, speaking in terms of numbers, are again positively dwarfed by the space they inhabit. There are a few revenants at one side of the yard, but the great majority of the opposition are imps, which given your arsenal at that point are about as effective a defense force as a string of paper dolls would be. You vs. a string of paper dolls with a football field's worth of real estate to fight them in. And what's more, 90% of them can't even reach you. They're stuck on the 'ring' around the central structure, with a few sergeants mixed in for some fool reason (all these do is die in infighting 3 seconds after you enter the area), and as such represent nothing more than the last, and worst, shooting gallery in the WAD. Nothing happens at any point during the switch sequence needed to get into the final room (so why is this a sequence at all?). Once you get in there, you're treated to one of the most attractive rooms in the WAD, fitting for a flashy sendoff fight of some sort, but instead it's just a couple of thin banks of pop-up trash which your BFG devours alive in a matter of instants. And then that's it, the end? Really?? After all of the WAD's big arena battles and such??? Really???? Yes, really. Long and short of it is, this is a part of the map which is blatantly unfinished, full-built but only half-designed. One good-looking room (and it really is quite good-looking!) is not a good payoff for all of the half-hearted fluff which precedes it, and the room itself is mostly wasted as an experiential space. It's frankly baffling to me that it ends the entire set, right when you really want to give players something to remember you by, and if I've sounded unusually vehement here, that's why--the WAD as a whole has many good qualities, many fun encounters, and deserves a much better sendoff than this whole dud of a final leg. To say this has been emblematic of my experience with Alienated would be most unfair -- it's enjoyable more often than not, and shows a lot of growth in all aspects of design over the author's previous work -- but it is certainly emblematic of the WAD's inconsistencies, and highlights room for further improvements in what will hopefully be future sets.
  4. Demon of the Well

    The DWmegawad Club plays: MAYhem 2019 & Alienated

    Map 31 -- Torrid Temple - 100% Kills / 100% Secrets Hurrah! Doom Egypt! I'm a sucker for Doom Egypt. :) (It's actually kind of more like Mysterious Doom Yucatan Tomb or summat if you want to be pedantic, but w/e) Having finished the episode, this secret level has turned out to be my favorite from the WAD. While it's one of the set's smaller levels, it also feels strongly and confidently designed and on-point for its full duration, without the recurring issues of unevenness in conceptual design and practical execution which mark parts of many of the others. From pistol-start it's also notably one of the set's more challenging levels, with a tighter balance of ammo/healing early on, making the berserk pack (first found in a fairly elementary out-in-the-open 'secret') more than a vanity item for the first (and last) time in the set, and a pronounced skew towards actual traps (vs. clearly staged/obvious in advance arena fights) which fit snugly with the 'dangerous ancient temple' trope. Many of these work precisely because they are surprising, and require quick thinking, rather than because they're incredibly lethal or dense as a matter of core design, which is illustrative: many of the set's milder/weaker fights may be lacking impact not so much because they're more gentle per se, as because they're all so transparent, well in advance of actually occuring. The 'Dig Site' fight, this map's take on an arena, is also one of the most developed encounters in the game, and despite introducing the BFG doesn't come off as underbalanced. This may be because the arena in this case is not just a big open space, but has more in-ring complexity (bits of stone and other cover), more topographical complexity (different layers/tiers of ground, connected by a spiral ramp route), and uses a similar quantity of monsters that we sometimes see filling out spaces 4 or 5 times as physically large elsewhere. Here it seems Lorenz0 really said "to hell with restraint! this is the secret map, I can cut loose!", and it just works. For my part, I found it better to immediately kill the pair of cyberdemons with a pair of two-shots rather than trying to weaponize them, as the ring of gasbags which teleports in really chaotically/unpredictably restricts space for the first several moments after their appearance. Using the plasma gun to sweep the throngs of imps off of the dig tiers while charging up them, while the mastermind strafes the whole area with a hail of bullets from above to try to prevent you reaching the top, is a sequence with a ton of cinematic flair, and in general the entire fight has much more of a sense of direction and structure to it, versus simply being a bunch of monsters plopped into a pretty arena. Good stuff. Map 07 -- Twisted League - 100% Kills/ 100% Secrets This is a strange level, in many ways it reads as something much more primitive than any of the others, both visually and in terms of the very loose, floaty, somewhat disconnected feel between its areas and fights. It occupies a strange, surreal, "what if Alienated had somehow been made in the 90s" kind of space (never mind we didn't have 3D floors in the 90s!), and moreso than any other map in the set it feels like it's cobbled together out of scraps, while also suffering from some of the set's persistent issues, such as a final area which is lackluster in design versus the rest (it's another shooting gallery, and this time coming at the end of a map which has at least one other shooting gallery segment). For all that, though, I found it oddly enjoyable in its way. None of the gameplay design insisting very strongly on itself has been something of an issue for much of the set in my opinion, but here the softness/liquidity of most of the boundaries between different areas/different fights seems to invite an experience where you just run and run and run through this endless blue watery expanse, like something out of a dream, while the monster mash gradually accrues into something of a minor storm behind you. This gets cut off somewhat in the last third or so progression, where you need to start using keys to traverse the upper tech walkways farther into the map (at which point nothing that doesn't fly can follow you or trouble you any longer), but up until that point this may actually be one of the better examples in the set of how looser design can sometimes create the potential for different players to enjoy a certain degree of license in tailoring the gameplay to their own liking via their in-game actions, whereas more often the design focuses on a particular style of play (arenas and setpieces) but often softballs the approach to where it feasibly might not be alienating even to players generally skeptical of that kind of design, which has its benefits, perhaps, and also quite a few costs (in my opinion).
  5. Demon of the Well

    Infraworld - The Hatehammer

    Hello, I almost certainly should have mentioned this before, but kept forgetting. There is another point of game-ending map dysfunction resulting from a "ZDoomism" still present in the map in the current version if played in target port/settings (prB+ -cl9). In the roughly U-shaped lava pit surrounding the plasma rifle gazebo in the southwestern part of the map, if the player falls or jumps down in there on purpose (i.e. in pursuit of the nearby secret button or such) they become stuck/unable to get out because the lift leading out of it is untagged or not tagged correctly and thus cannot be activated outside of ZDoom-family ports. (this is the area in question) (this is the offending lift) This issue actually ended my FDA attempt back when I was first playing this, though I found the map enjoyable enough not to resent replaying it again later. :) Some commentary/criticism: For a map that is basically composed of a large number of disparate scraps or one-off construction experiments all stitched together, I think that you did an excellent job of creating a sense of environmental/aesthetic cohesion as concerns the overall presentation -- while you can still see the patchwork nature of the design if you look at the 'meta' of various areas, overall the level reads quite naturally as a single location, with organic and mostly believable connections and a really admirable sense of 3D richness in the design without actually leaning on 3D floors or portals or the like. The environment being enjoyable to travel and experience carries a lot of the action well enough, though my main criticisms do all pertain to gameplay. Overall I feel like you overcompensated for the possibilities of the level's non-linearity in the thing balance, trying to make sure that no route is markedly more or less harsh/tenable than any other. While I personally often enjoy it when some routes in big non-linear maps are markedly more harsh/perilous than others (at least without map knowledge), I would consider this a valid artistic choice nonetheless, but I think you added one layer of safety insurance too many (on skill 4 anyway), to the point that it undercuts some of the map's potential excitement and has the effect of homogenizing different battles just by sheer virtue of how powerful/overarmed the player is likely to be while experiencing 75% of them, no matter what route they take. Basically you've got really generous ammo/item/weapon placement all over the map, AND very similar levels of monster density throughout, AND mostly similarly restrained battle/trap placement which almost all seem to worry "but what if the player comes here first?" (the 'blood pits' room is the lone bizarre outlier, being a really pronounced and exciting(!) danger spike), even in the deeper reaches of the map where this is very unlikely, if not more or less impossible. All of these 'err on the side of safety/accessibility' decisions together combine to make a lot of the action throughout feel similar even while the traps/terrain vary. I feel like you might've achieved a similarly 'smooth/even' balance by keeping the generous item placement but offsetting it with more violent battles players are most likely to encounter later in the map. Alternatively, by having more of a tight hunt-for-resources style of thing placement throughout, or even just in stages (i.e. in the parts of the map most likely to be visited earlier), additional wrinkles would likely have naturally emerged in many of the existing encounters; there's no shortage of different terrain types and different methods of framing/staging in the fights, it's just that as is, this tends not to be very assertive in the moment-to-moment experience since most can be simply steamrolled without much thought given the luxurious thing placement. I also felt that the final parts of the map having no significant spike in intensity or even sheer spectacle vs. the earlier/intermediate parts undercut the overall sense of adventure to some degree, and it was in this that I felt the map's origin as a collection of separate/unrelated fragments was most noticeable. If all that sounds terribly grumpy/curmudgeonly, well, don't let it get you down. I may not personally agree with the design goal to make everything very accessible as priority one, but there are certainly those who will appreciate it, and even most of my criticism is a sort of aggregate of very small balance decisions I would consider 'less than ideal' rather than actually 'bad/wrong', and in this map's case may be as simple a question as 'what's a good skill 3 balance?' vs. 'what's a good skill 4 balance?'. Each new map I play by you is better than the last as regards gameplay, so the future looks bright. :)
  6. Demon of the Well

    The DWmegawad Club plays: MAYhem 2019 & Alienated

    Map 05 -- Acid Flow - 100% Kills / 85% Secrets (I wish I had found this chainsaw secret...) A large alien-industrial plant of some sort situated on a river of corrosive purple sludge, this level has something of a more dark, dismal, and threatening look to it, though in practice I felt it actually read like a somewhat softer version of the map just prior (softer mainly because there's a lot more healing available here). Again, the player collects most of their armaments and a good stock of ammo in the starting chamber (the plasma gun is available shortly thereafter, when the player first reaches this level's hub proper), and again, the goal is to pick from a pair of paths leading off of the upstairs junction to collect a duo of keys (red and blue this time) which opens the way to a teleporter array out in the titular Flow. I think the backpack is actually secret this time...? The starting chamber is a simple runaround, and offers some entertainment value in that it's good fun to see the corpses of the imps on the perched sectors scatter dramatically all over the room if you're able to land a rocket dead-center in their midst from ground level. If you immediately ascend on one of the pumping platforms, the gantries (3D floors) which form a web across the room's upper level also make for a surprisingly effective combat aid, as they allow you to flank and re-enter the ground level fray with near total impunity -- enough so that the room probably could've comfortably been made a lot more dangerous than it is, though the author seems to be aiming for a slow start instead, and it's questionable how many players would think to try coming up here early in the fight. Of the split paths, it's somewhat surprising (though not a bad thing, mind) that neither quite develops into an arena this time, though some might argue that the BK 'crossfire' rig qualifies as one. This area demonstrates the ongoing user-friendliness of the WAD, incidentally -- it seems to be designed for you to run out into the midst of things, and indeed it plays best that way, but you can also gradually snipe your way through it from the area's entrance (knights sometimes teleport to the beginning of the hall, but they aren't strong enough to be effective pushers against most players) in more or less total safety, save for the occasional lucky plink from one of the former troopers. The later phase, when the BK is actually taken, can be handled similarly, by retreating to the earlier part of the rig. While the playability of this design is still fine in the sense that it functions well enough if you do play it aggressively, I reckon it's a good example of an encounter where it would've been appropriate to insist more strongly on this approach (via a lock-in or a stronger push from the entrance or such) than the author here does; sometimes turtles have to be coaxed out of their shells if they're ever going to live a little. The other path's a bit of cave-spelunking with a small fight on an elevated platform which seems to really want you to use the berserk powerup to fight the teams of specters, though the powerup being placed at the start of the room, all of 2 seconds away from you entering the sights of some chaingunner and revenant sniper-teams on platforms which the player can't directly reach rather undermines this to some degree, and discourages one from what might otherwise be a fun fisting-spree, hurling the imps from the rocks en route to the platform and such. I guess this is in some ways the converse to my criticism of the other path -- sometimes it's okay (or better) to have low-risk fun for the sake of it, rather than muddying the waters with some kind of minimum 'threat calculus.' The encounters after the duo-locked door are more or less a non-event, once again, interestingly/oddly. I also didn't correctly interpret where the level's exit point was going to be this time, else I might have gone back to find that chainsaw! Map 06 -- Clash - 99% Kills / 100% Secrets (I think there was a set of monsters somewhere which simply failed to trigger, but I can't tell where it is in GZDoom's janky automap) Again, this is the same scheme/pattern as the past couple of maps -- a hub where you start, a pair of branching paths each leading to a key, both of which are needed to access the final/exit path -- though the delivery is much more dramatic throughout, and kind of like m02/m03 this gives the impression of being built later or having more care put into it than the comparative roughness of maps 01, 04, and 05. Strangely, the first fight in the hub is dangerous (from pistol-start) in a way that this mapset seldom has been, simply because if you move aggressively the initial blanket of hitscan attrition is witheringly strong, especially at the top of the broad sweeping stairs. As a longer level than anything prior, "Clash" also introduces the weapons more gradually (the rocket launcher and plasma gun are tied to two branching paths, and the SSG is gated behind the initial round of fights in the hub), so you can't necessarily simply steamroll from the get-go. This initial hostility contrasts with utter silence later on; you return to the hub at the end of each of the key paths through a different/special entrance, but no repopulation or ambush of any kind is ever forthcoming, which seems odd given what a large and vibrantly detailed space the hub is. The two key paths have their own particular identities, in line with the different weapons they introduce. Neither quite fits the previous mould of small, highly conceptual fights, in line, perhaps, with the generally much expanded scope and scale of the level as a whole. Instead, the blue path (which introduces the plasma gun) begins with a cyber-turret setpiece that is basically a moshpit, although a somewhat PG-rated one since the cyb does not enjoy a particularly wide field of fire, and most of the bodies involved are imps and demons, who melt like butter in front of a hot stream of plasma. The path continues for some time after this, sliding into a subtle theme of clearing glossy, superhitech base rooms and then tangoing with arch-viles who appear in them (sometimes suddenly, sometimes telegraphed far in advance), having to improvise for cover and angles. It's not really flashy, but it is smartly designed, for the most part, though again there's a certain careful (perhaps slightly too careful?) restraint in never asking you to deal with too much at once, unless you're really bullheadedly rushing for the sake of it, I suppose. The yellow path is a pair of large caverns (the first in particular is perhaps the largest single space in the set thus far) with walkways suspended over lava, designed for hurling rockets with wild abandon while a technicolor cloud of varying monster projectiles lights up the air. In contrast to the more measured pace of the blue path, this one seems more or less designed to be rushed through, and it occurs to me that it's probably fairly easy to leave the whole area without firing a shot once you know where you're going, though the action is enjoyable enough that only curmudgeons and speedrunners would probably want to actually do this. As for the exit, well......I played this map and m05 prior back-to-back, then went outside to shovel snow (for some fresh air and because it needed to be done), and now I'm sitting here writing this and I can't for the life of me remember what happens in the exit branch here (other than that the secret exit is guarded by Tommy the Trooper!), which I think at this point is fitting into a pattern of rather underwhelming exits for the mapset. I'm becoming increasingly inclined to attribute this not so much to a lack of ideas as to a certain hesitation in being too mean to the player -- not wanting to put a roadblock at the end of a series of already large battles, something like that -- but I've selected Ultraviolence! Hurt me more, dammit!
  7. Demon of the Well

    The DWmegawad Club plays: MAYhem 2019 & Alienated

    Map 03 -- Seatooth - 99% Kills / 66% Secrets The arena-focused nature of the mapset's design is more clear here than ever before: at the beginning, the level is framed as a non-linear three-key scavenger hunt, and while it is indeed such a scheme in the simplest of senses, this amounts to three separate fights (or three and a half if you want to count the little 'hanging gazebo' encounter that precedes the teleporter to the exit area) and very little else. These can indeed be played in any order you like -- if I recall correctly, in my game I ended up doing the RK 'blind alley' fight (and then traveling ineffectually to the exit area) first, then the YK fight in the large/dark green chamber, and then the BK/crusher gallery battle last -- though since you are provided your full kit at the outset of the map, these function basically in a vacuum, rather than playing off of each other in different ways depending on the order you tackle them in. There's also a really notable largess of ammo, armor, and spheres in general, all through the level, giving proceedings a very empowering (and, some might say, surprisingly easy) lean overall. Of the three, about half of the rather brief RK path is entertaining -- my approach to the blind alley was to hang in an alcove on the righthand side of the alley, chopping down imps 3-4 at a time with SSG blasts, occasionally swinging out for a shot at one of the mancubi before they get too far down the hall (it's only wide enough for one of them at a time what with all the imps about, fortunately) -- but the hanging gazebo bit struck me as awkward and didn't really read right, since the thin iron suspension poles prevent much clean fire from coming out of or going into them, save meaningless little zombie popgun shots. The YK and BK fights, in contrast, are both quite entertaining, and seem conceptually linked on some level in that both stage a central 'core' of threat which you're empowered to wipe out early on with extreme prejudice, with huge hordes of imps sweeping in from the flanks to provide violent emphasis (and to complicate matters for players who take too long or immediately respond to the fights by trying to flee). Since the overall ammo balance is very rocket-oriented, particularly in the green arena, this makes for lots of satisfying guts & gore bonanzas. A minor oddity: as aforesaid, the full kit for the level is provided, no strings attached, right at the beginning, but the backpack is conspicuously not part of the pile. Instead, it sits in a random corner in one of the pair of hallways leading into the large green chamber; as such, it's also technically available right from the beginning, and can be taken without consequence of any kind. This handling of the item, which is entirely route/chance dependent in a sense but also has literally no aspect of risk/reward attached is very strange to me. Since the level swings so heavily towards empowerment in general, I don't understand why the backpack is kept back in this way; if it's supposed to be tied expressly to the YK setpiece (where it is indeed more notably convenient to have), why is it just in this one hallway (which was the one I used to *exit* rather than to *enter*, incidentally), rather than copied in both, or found near the switch which starts the encounter or such? Oddly enough, this kind of weirdly "random" backpack placement seems to be a recurring element in later maps, as well, suggesting it's a quirk of design particular to the author or set. Map 04 -- Flower Cave - 100% Kills / 100% Secrets Something of a 1-2, 1-2 rhythm is becoming apparent in the set, as now we shift back away from larger arenas (though the BK cave still qualifies as such I guess) to smaller, more conceptual setpiece encounters taking place in more enclosed surroundings, ala m02 from earlier. Once again, the level begins in a hub with various branches you can explore in whatever order suits you; the ultimate goal is to find the yellow and blue skull keys, which each grant access to a switch needed to complete half of the exit sequence in the final chamber (which can be seen/entered with just one of the pair). Proceedings are fairly straightforward in that the different paths are very short and rapidly terminate in the keys, though there is one notable optional branch you can take for a plasma rifle, as well as some smaller subsidiary halls it's possible to simply ignore, meaning that the order in which you tackle the different challenges is more relevant to the overall experience than in m03 prior. Healing is notably scarcer than in any previous map, communicating some sense of upped stakes and asking for cleaner play in some slightly trickier scenarios. Also some strange backpack placement again, incidentally, though this time it does have a booby-trap attached! Of the fights, the sudden pitfall trap en route to the YK is the most effective, using lots of knights and some others on interference in an already small space half covered in poisonous ooze, reducing footing further and making exercising spatial control of the room more complex (it also helps that the two 'decoy' knights at the end of the trapped tunnel likely baited you into having the RL equipped at the moment the trap springs, which requires some quick thinking/reflexes to say the least). The BK cave plays for spectacle but is less remarkable, since the bounty of radsuits and ammo trivialize the potential impact of the ooze in that area, making it a simple circle-strafe fight. As for the exit chamber, well.....it seems to me that this area is unfinished or something, I'm not sure what it's really going for. There are various enemies with powerful attacks covering a variety of angles of fire -- arachnatrons, arch-viles in little wall-nooks, and of course the cyberdemon at the center -- but none of these angles are complementary in any sense, so it's a question of routinely clearing the enemies one at a time with the great surfeit of ammo you've likely amassed by that point. I feel like the really limp 'ambushes' tied to the two switchpresses should've had much more dangerous consequences, or something. Aesthetically, I have to admit that I don't care for this much at all, personally. Mostly anonymous ooze-caves with little in the way of grand spaces or interesting formations or anything like that, basically a map which feels like it's made entirely of minor connective areas with very little in the way 'main chambers.' It is very much a map where the texture assets are left to do the lion's share of the work (vs. geometry/topography or layout), and while I do like the deep purple as a base color the persistent appearance of red and green in bands makes the whole scheme look garishly 'plastic' to me, the overall impression being you're a tiny little person running around amidst those 'ring toy' stacks that some folks use for babies and very young children. The recolored computer/tech padding textures treated as flats for the 'leaves' of the flowers are also just plain *gross*, man.
  8. Demon of the Well

    The DWmegawad Club plays: MAYhem 2019 & Alienated

    Alienated Map 01 -- Sentient Asteroid - 100% Kills / 100% Secrets Evidently a small alien base inside of a geologically 'living' asteroid, this introductory level seems to sit comfortably in familiar/conventional m01 territory without being overly beholden to a traditional m01 checklist of tropes or 'musts' (or 'must-nots', perhaps), which is generally a good sign. Apart from a couple of mancubi, a pair of revenants, and a few commandos at one point the base is defended by squads of former humans, gaggles of imps and a few packs of pinkies, to be combated chiefly with shotgun and chaingun -- all very 'episode 1' in that sense. Yet, from the moment the game begins, there's a heavy skew towards spacious arena-type chambers as the normative blueprint element of the level; there are a couple of hallways and a couple of small connecting rooms, but these are notable in their relative rarity. Having the first map of the game show such an arena focus (outside of the context of a slaughter or challenge-oriented set, which I don't see this billing itself as) is a surprisingly rare tack to take, and what might otherwise be very rote (or very 'classic', if you prefer) mob-swatting action gains the benefits of this openness from the word go, allowing the player to combine multiple waves or more actively stir up infighting or any number of other ways of playing which go a bit beyond simply shooting stuff that shows up in front of you. Because it has as of yet been so rarely used in other projects, most of the AA-tex assets here still look quite fresh to me. The wet/watery outdoor areas read naturally enough with patches of lichen and such for additional color contrast against the scheme of blue/grey, and the generally utilitarian base architecture is supported by the vibrant neon/vaporwave color scheme of the pack, as well as small touches of subtle colored lighting and such (I mention this because, in my experience, sets that go in for colored lighting rarely use it *subtly*) to elevate it a step beyond the basic, though at this point I'd warrant it's really only a step -- AAtex aside, the look here reminds me heavily of the visual style of Simplicity (albeit on a larger scale), generally a clean, 'safe' all-purpose look that adapts more or less neatly to a variety of thematic templates, but needs a really strong sense of scene composition to look really striking. I wouldn't say we're seeing that yet, and the heavily divergent aesthetic of the two branches after the dropdown dilutes the base's style rather than underwriting it, but it's early days yet. Minor issue: if you slip out of the soulsphere fight, all of the enemies which port in after you leave are deaf/inactive and thus will not only not pursue you, but also clog the destination spot and prevent anything else from the group appearing. Map 02 -- Hidden Base - 100% Kills / 50% Secrets Aesthetically much sharper! A cold, clear, and very crisp 'lithic-tech' base/bunker setting, a stark base of sealed concrete and stone shot through with highlights of blazing chrome and steely aqua-blues. Simpler, but much more decisive, and for that reason a lot stronger thematically than the 'bit of this, bit of that' approach of the previous map. Slopes and spots of colored lighting are also used effectively alongside more classic idtech1 detail techniques (bars and bands of 'rod' detailing on the ceilings, grooved/inset layers of trim, sheets of liquidfall midtex, etc.) to create a more complete and finished presentation that allows architecture, scale, and texture selections to define the look, rather than relying on individually striking assets or port/renderer features to carry the load (which seldom works really convincingly). The nature of the gameplay design also betokens some attractive circle or 'scale' designs in the geometry, most noticeable on the automap. After the initial set of short but violent scuffles in the opening area, the gameplay design moves away somewhat from looser/relatively freeform arenas and towards a selection of conceptual setpieces, the most entertaining of these being the RL 'shooting gallery' segment at the east end. The SSG also debuts in a ratrun setpiece which tests basic player knowledge of how to use it (i.e. you should use its heavy burst damage to punch through to one end of the alley where you can hole up and funnel the rest of the enemies to you, rather than being passive and getting eaten alive trying to hold the middle), and even the chainsaw has a few subtler opportunities to shine providing you're the sort of player willing to show it some affection. The more self-contained nature of these setpieces combined with a potentially slightly 'grindy' opening foray (lots of shotgunning revenants, cacos, and knights, realistically) makes this more of a mid-paced affair than its rather small size may suggest, though map/secret knowledge plus the potential to use the RL for other (optional) encounters combats this somewhat.
  9. Demon of the Well

    I search this WAD

    NeoDoom?
  10. Demon of the Well

    Which color key is the scariest/hardest?

    My vote is blue. Blue, the indigo abyss, the color of introspection, recalling darkness, without and also within. When I think of the blue skull, I think of morbid ruminations on mortality, no peace in life and none beyond the gate. As above so below etc. etc. I also tend to associate the blue key with fights on the largest physical scale of all a map's fights, which are more often than not my favorites to play. So, even if this key is not actually the most dangerous in practice, I will tend to think of it as being related to the most ominous/imposing content, the one most associated with shadows and tombs and ruins and stuff of that nature (vs. fire and caves and castles and cathedrals and whatnot) and when given a choice in a 'find the three keys on three paths' map or similar it's often the one I'll save for last, in a "save the best for last" sort of way. The yellow skull, actually opalescent topaz, the color of burnished Aztec gold, almost assuredly cursed. This is the one I tend to think of as the 'secret key', or 'the one most likely to be optional', leading to a shortcut, a bonus cache, a secret exit, sometimes a crazy optional fight, sometimes all of these at once. The red skull, the blood key, the Hell key, the evil key -- this is less an association of mine and more one that other people seem to have, and the red skull seems more likely to be the major or final key the more aesthetically sinister the setting is. I'll bet you $20 that if we were to somehow conduct an actual empirical survey/study of the matter, this is the key we would find is the one *actually* most likely to be associated with when shit really hits the fan.
  11. Demon of the Well

    The DWmegawad Club plays: MAYhem 2019 & Alienated

    Map 17 -- Naraka - 108% Kills / 100% Secrets Leaving aside that this is a collab map, it certainly evinces something of a dual nature, in more ways than one. While it may be a brooding luxe-Carpathian citadel host to so many incidents of blood sacrifice, ritual cannibalism, mass immolation, and similar atrocities in its day that it was eventually cursed and sucked down into Hell itself, it also has something of a lighter side -- a book at bedtime, a friendly arthropod or two, a voidscape of cashmere and crushed velvet, a pet caco who is DEFINITELY ONLY SLEEPING -- and though it boasts some of the largest and most violent fights in the mapset, there is a definite playfulness to most of the proceedings. Like m14 before it, this is a map which hinges almost entirely on a variety of staged/choreographed setpiece fights, though here there is a little more time and space set aside for you to wander around the grounds and see the sights if you wish -- the overall impression is somewhat akin to if Tim Burton directed a hyperviolent slasher flick + romantic comedy set in medieval Transylvania -- and there are a few short breaks or interludes given over to markedly game-y bits of track-running, basic platforming, or light puzzling (I admit it took me a few minutes to figure out how to open the first door as well!) as well. Nevertheless, a fight-by-fight look back, ala m14, seems a natural approach here. * Dance Hall / BK fight : the first fight, and appropriately enough the easiest. This is a traditional ballroom-blitz type of fight, all about crowd management, involving kiting the droves of skeletons and mummies back and forth in a tidy butterfly waltz while thinning their numbers with rocket fire and coyly avoiding eye contact with the sole stag minotaur for as long as possible. The L-shape of the hall makes this more involved than something one could simply circle-strafe (in fact, circle-strafing is generally not a good answer to any of this map's fights), but its spacious proportions keep it from being terribly taxing provided you know to throw rockets where you're going to want/need the seam to be in a few seconds' time. There is another slight complication in the form of the two viles on the extended widow's watch outside, but despite all of the windows they can only actually "see" you when you're standing on an elevated point in the hall, making them a marginal factor provided you keep moving, which you should be doing anyway. With solid technique it's no great feat to save the megasphere here until after the fight; doing so gives you a real leg up in the next fight. * Royal Hall / RK fight : the next two fights can be done in either order; this was the one that I did first. While this initially appears to provide an even more spacious runaround than the BK fight, looks can be (and in this case are) very deceiving. This battle involves heavy area-denial and puts a premium on your ability to levy effective rocket-suppression against rapidly spawning/rapidly moving incursions of bonemen and other mostly minor foes while sticking to a sharply limited bit of legroom -- technically you do have the whole hall to run around in, but the nave/narthex is categorically denied to you by groups of perched arch-viles at the far end which you won't have time to dispose of until later, and two of the prime suppression spots are initially overlooked by batteries of liches who end up being crushed only after you've held out near the entrance for a bit. Preceding and tailing this fight are the aforementioned spates of track-running and light platforming; the latter is very simple and should be well within the abilities of almost everyone who plays to this point in this mapset -- simple to the point where I was surprised there wasn't some additional complication, to be honest -- but the former is a very direct "hello fellow speedrunners" wink/nudge and is tricky to take no damage in until you've memorized the path (and not trivial for most even then), presumably why the penalty for failing it is rather light. Speaking for myself, I was not thrilled at having to niche-hop back through the track in reverse to get back out again; at this point I felt the marked diversion in style from the general gameplay loop of the rest of the map was insisting on itself a little overly much, though it might be argued that this kind of quirk is emblematic of the map's overall charm. * Observatory / YK fight: this fight also requires heavy rocket-suppression of streams of enemies appearing in close proximity to you, but prioritizes aim and, uh, prioritization a little less, and your ability to react to enemy movements and change position in a dynamic/chaotic situation at a moment's notice, both to avoid being swamped and to minimize attrition from your own rocket-splash. The much smaller space coupled with an extra element of peril from the collapse in the floor at the third of the room nearest the entrance (fall in and you're dead) would be enough to make this a more heated and intimate fight than the others by as it is, but there are still more complicating factors to contend with : the player is force-fed a blursphere at the start of the engagement, the entrance is host to a mother-brain which needs to be shut out by periodic use of a pair of shutter-switches on either side of the room, *and* in the final phase a pair of arch-viles port onto raised plinths in the small space. There is no cover to be had, so outside of favorable painstun/attack state RNG your only play is to quickly distract them with friendly fire from some other foe, ala the minotaur (did I forget to mention him?) or, better yet, the aforementioned mother-brain. This kitchen-sink pile of ideas all in play simultaneously in this one small space certainly make this a memorable fight, and easily the most frantic one in the map as aforesaid. Moreso than any other fight in the mapset it also reads as the one most cognizant of this being a -cl 11 mapset (vs. the more common -cl 9 or -cl 2) on a deeper simulation level; infighting is significantly less reliable/predictable on this setting, and both the way the mother-brain is leveraged here as a real and pressing danger, and the use of the blursphere to provide an approximate offset in normal threat levels of this and other creatures involved in the melee, says that the designer damn well knows this. The creativity and erudition in combining so many elements in such a small space is more than a little impressive, but I have to admit I reckon it's probably just one step past the point of overdesign for a space/timespan this short. My main point of contention is the (forced) blursphere, which on one level facilitates the loose/casual use of so many squishy hitscan zombies and cultists for the initial rocket-pounding, but also reads as a hacky/heavyhanded way to underscore the brain's threat (in this small shooting gallery, she's *more* dangerous with this artifact in effect, not less), thus enforcing the use of the shutter-switches, and also cops just enough duration to make the window for distracting the two viles who eventually appear with friendly fire razor-thin. * Circle of Protection fight / Occult abyss part 1 : It took me a couple of attempts to understand what's going on here -- while you're in the small candle-braced sector at the very center of the arena, you cannot be "seen" and thus cannot be attacked by any of the creatures here, though you in turn can't attack them either, and being in the circle slowly drains your lifeforce, such that you can't simply linger there indefinitely. This is a really cool idea! I don't think I've seen the 'seek cover' gameplay which the arch-vile brings to the table used in quite this way in the past, and it neatly fits into the mapset's general black magick/occultic overtones as an extra treat. Naturally, you want to kill the timed pairs of viles as quickly as possible -- firing at roughly perpendicular angles to and slightly ahead of their general vector of travel helps, as does letting them close a bit before exiting the Circle -- but given the vagaries of RNG it's likely that sooner or later the rate of spawn will get ahead of you a bit, at which point the fight becomes an endeavor of calm focus under pressure, not letting yourself be compelled to exit the Circle until the right moment (said moment often occurring when the later viles are clumped up/merrily resurrecting some of the shotgun cultists which crash the party at a few points). I recommend lowering all of the megaspheres on poles to floor level before beginning (leaving them up so you can use the thin poles to block line of sight for viles is a pure 'style points' thing which most players will not need) so it's easy to nip out and grab one when you need to top up. Once I understood the fight, I was able to pass it using only a single sphere; having more available puts you in a very good place for the finale. * CYO Slaughter / Occult abyss part 2 : And for dessert, a big scrappy open-field brawl (or a pair of less big, still pretty scrappy open-field brawls) which invites you to choose two of four available perks (from a pair of internally-exclusive pairs) to help tackle the final enemies. All of the blood and guts and screaming and gnashing of teeth aside, it's EXACTLY like build-your-own sundaes at Coldstone or something!! Yay!! My choosing was the Necronomicon and the phantasmal velvet pillars offering periodic cover, to whit; I preferred to have the cacolanterns release with everything else (their streams of fireballs are good for distracting the fast-running chainsawers in groups, whereas the battery of arachnorbs can do the same but is too troublesome to let live), and had plenty of 'spheres to work with such that I didn't really need to worry about slightly reducing the coverage of damage-floor in the arena for the big brawl. The final phase can be done in halves, which makes it *very* approachable given all of the other advantages you likely enjoy at this point, but for optimal fun/violence it also plays well doing both simultaneously. Interestingly, the Circle of Protection is still in effect for this fight and a few bonus pickups even spawn in there, though at some point its damage-factor ranks up to 20%, making it more an extra little perk of convenience (with a cost) than a cornerstone of your strategy. I actually didn't enter it at all in this fight in my game; the cycling pillars + the Necronomicon afforded me a fast (if sometimes a mite spammy) answer to the last set of viles, and the many healing powerups allowed me to outlast the horde in a general riot without the need for sanctuary. Map 18 -- Epilogue ...and a nice, quiet tomb in this classy little credits map, where we can finally get in some R&R. Sounds good to me.
  12. Demon of the Well

    The DWmegawad Club plays: MAYhem 2019 & Alienated

    Map 32 -- Private Property - 100% Kills / 100% Secrets 3 seconds in and it's IDMUS anythingbutthis, boys and girls. It's a Joe-ilya map, alright. A Joe-ilya map in what is by now a fairly familiar pattern for the author: a big (though it's really not THAT big) bounding box framing the play area, with smaller boxes scattered around inside of it, and a loose collection of crap and allsorts stuffed into said boxes and also showered over the general premises, almost randomly to appearances. If you've ever had a storage shed, and had a family of raccoons take up temporary residence in the shed for some span of time, the overall effect here is really something quite similar to what you'll have encountered in said shed come springtime. Odor included. Many ilyamaps fit this broad description to a tee, though to give due credit I felt that this is one of the stronger examples of their number in recent memory. It may be that the bent towards a realistic/representational setting, which the Blood resources invite both aesthetically and by artistic reference, suits him better than Doom's relatively greater degree of abstraction. So, level progression is less harebrained/more structured than usual, involving finding keys to reach the house's master bedroom so you can take a flying leap out of its window to reach the other side of the creek; enemy placement is also more 'themed', which sees many of the creatures used in ways that naturally suit their abilities to a greater or lesser degree -- chainsaw dudes to chase you through the hedgerows, cacolanterns and their ilk to spit at you through second story windows, etc. The map's best moments involve the initial clear, which quickly supplies you a chaingun and positively *showers* you with bullets, allowing you to lark about fighting anything and everything milling about outside, bottlenecking slightly at the (optional) 'picnic' area in the woods but still functioning reasonably well regardless. Interior placements are generally much more hamhanded and occasionally nonsensical clearing/grinding affairs (i.e. the barn trap, which throws three fronts of threat at you, two of which.......are incapable of actually reaching you with attacks), but all things considered it could've been (and historically has been!) much worse. The confetti-showered item placement makes for a striking contrast with the austerity of the broadly/thematically similar structure and stylings of m02 from earlier, and I think most tastes will agree that this map is by far the more enjoyable of the two. Map 16 -- Madman's Vault - 103% Kills / 100% Secrets A Dobu map!? A Dobu map with monsters in it!?!? Be still mine heart. (I didn't mean that *literally* Dobu) Who the titular Madman is or was is anyone's guess, but his Vault is evidently a sorcerous bastion of twisted arcane knowledge, doubling as a storehouse of innumerable occult texts and treatises and as a sort of vivarium for a wide assortment of creatures from the nether planes, presumably summoned here for research purposes, willingly or otherwise. The current prize specimen in the collection is the bloodthirsty minotaur housed in the center chamber, which on closer inspection seems to be little more than a glorified dogfight pit (complete with spectator boxes) when one gets right down to it, suggesting that the place's proprietor, through hubris or insanity, held no more respect for demonic life than for the earthlier sort. The goal here is to reach the dimensional gate, housed in a niche on the second story of the northernmost tower, but all roads there lead through the dogfight pit, and it will take a resourceful traveler indeed to unravel the mysteries of the vault and gain enough power to overcome the current reigning champ. In the most general sense, then, this is actually quite similar in concept to m15 before it -- the path to the exit is actually quite a short one in theory, but from a pistol-start simply heading straight for it from the get-go, even once you know exactly where it is, is almost guaranteed to end in death at the hands/hooves/horns/fangs of its guardians without proper preparation. Instead, the general idea is to explore the vault at large, amassing weaponry and (if you're skilled/clever) other resources which will allow you to contend with the 'boss fight' on a more even footing. A full tour through what is readily accessible will provide you with the bare essentials, while working out all of the various secrets can eventually combine to make *you* the real monster, able to swat aside the final encounters while hardly batting an eyelash. As far as the optionality/non-linearity aspect goes, the way progression is handled here is a lot more rich/nuanced/elegant than that seen in m15. The Vault contains two major interior paths girding the central pit and an additional major area in the form of an open landing to the north, as well as a trio of minor towers at the south end, where play begins. While the terrain and the locals are both uncanny and inhospitable enough to make navigation a daunting prospect at first, once you've got your bearings (or if you're just uncommonly lucky or insightful) you can visit almost anywhere on the map at almost any time, and in the order of your choosing (or your stumbling, survival-oriented non-choosing). Most will go in the front entrance, which splits off into four smaller paths from the foyer, two of which quickly lead to the center (and thus the exit) while the other two twine around to the landing at the north. However, with the green armor, good health, and a bit of cussing, you can also wade all the way around to the north landing first, and come at either of the two major interior paths from the back, which changes how a number of the major traps flow, while also offering you a chance at some earlier armament at the cost of somewhat greater initial combat risk. While playing, I eventually explored the whole thing as is my wont, but I reckon that there are actually many different *real* possibilities for how to complete the map, depending on one's skill, knowledge, and preferences. A lot of this is only really evident in hindsight, of course; many of the more elegant/unusual possibilities are only realistically likely to play out for a player who already knows a lot about the map (i.e. getting to the north landing early can allow you early access to the flamethrower, which is a huge game-changer, but only if you already know the puzzle solution which unlocks it, etc.), and for most first-timers it's wont to be more of a grueling affair of grim survival. On my first playthrough, I actually missed the early tower with the first SSG/first RL in it entirely -- distracted by the obnoxious imps in the distance while platforming about on the shattered brick pilings -- but was still able to hold my own in the Vault proper (later copies of these weapons are wisely supplied), my route being something like foyer -- > west library -- > north landing -- > east library, and then the two balconies and a lot of secret-hunting before utterly steamrolling the last fight in the center. It's a level where you can be made to feel both vulnerable/hunted and sardonically powerful in the span of a fairly short playtime, and this really smart multi-facetedness in both level design and balance is certainly the map's most sterling quality. The more you engage with that multi-facetedness, the easier the map gets, of course. And in that sense, this is actually surprisingly gentle/approachable (at least by the author's previously established tendencies), I thought; most of the most dangerous combat takes the form of traps, or strings of traps in close proximity (i.e. the west library), but almost everything seems to be balanced from a worst-case-scenario sort of perspective, i.e. so that you can survive each encounter or area with minimal armament provided you practice strong movement, astute situation management, and good tactics, while reaching them with heavier weapons affords you many more options and in some cases can allow you to make very short work of them without a lot of deeper thought. There's a tension here in what the 'average' player will likely experience, since many of the possibilities involve finding secrets (which many players don't habitually bother with), realistically emphasizing the austere/survival horror aspects of the map for many first-timers/one-timers, while those who do explore all the level has to offer become almost *too* powerful, to some degree undercutting the threat of most encounters and, more crucially, the sense of excitement in the climax as a result (give me more shit to kill in there!). For the sake of contrast, it's in this regard that I think the broadly similar m15 shines brighter -- it's far less elegant in most respects of both design and balance, but its manic, ruthless over/under-tuning ensures it keeps that visceral edge no matter how you play it, each time and every time. A case of Dario Argento vs. Joe D'Amato, let us say! (I'm a sucker for both, for the record.) Quality of life suggestions: have a few bits of broken tile or wood that can be hopped over to cross from one side of the north landing to the other without having to eat a hit of damage-floor each time (or having to avoid this by walking all the way around through the Vault proper to the other side). This makes engaging with the two pairs of puzzle switches for the north tower secret less needlessly standoffish/inconvenient, especially for someone working on solving it for the first time. The way the slow/halting spider-lifts will drop you back down to floor level if you don't immediately step off of them (thus requiring you to take the slow/halting ride another time) is also bothersome; surely they can be made to only descend as you actually step off at the cost of some additional voodoo-scripting? Minor bug: The pairs of arachnorbs in 'sealed' cages which accompany the arch-viles on the small southwest and southeast balconies all become active together (presumably via sound propagation) as soon as a player steps onto one of said balconies and triggers the fight there. This means that when you go to the other balcony, the 'norbs there will be jittering around impotently already awake in their cages, whereas the vile remains dormant until approached.
  13. Demon of the Well

    The DWmegawad Club plays: MAYhem 2019 & Alienated

    Map 15 -- Their Daily Bread - 102% Kills / 100% Secrets This one's just a little bit ridiculous. I love it! While it doesn't have a hot start per se, the meat & potatoes of Daily Bread is using carrot-on-a-stick item placement together with a big bovine bully to propel you ever forwards into an ever-mounting, ever-escalating series of monstrous incursions, eventually culminating in a map-wide clusterfuck (and also likely your brutal death, until you figure out what's what). On a first play, the likely sequence of events is that you get quickly chased out of the first area, and then, desperate for something to help you beat back your pursuers, you A) find yourself hemmed in because you foolishly tried to be brave and stand your ground somewhere, B) keep running until the map loops back on itself and you suddenly find yourself face to face with all of the horrific shit that set you running in the first place, or C) you find yourself in the ominous/surreal exit area, where nothing can chase you, but where you stand basically zero chance of surviving the exit fight without the gear/artifacts which are the true progression linchpins of the rest of the map (my first attempt ended in C), for the record). Doomguy as 'the Final Girl', indeed. Learning the terrain and which pickups cause what developments in the monster population is key to success, natch. While small, the level layout is essentially a slipknot loop. No, really! -- look at the automap, try to mentally phase out the hill geometry of the starting area, and voila, noose (key paths) + hangman's knot (artifacts altar) + gallowsbraid (exit area). So, it's a circuit traversable in both directions, with the exit as a dead-end detour; each of the two key areas has an all-important weapon (rocket launcher in the YK's cave, flamethrower in the RK's fiery demesne) which you basically need to survive that area, and which you can also use to clear out earlier parts of the map or to make an attempt at the exit. The start area itself also has a certain degree of flex to it, in that you don't actually have to rouse the first minotaur to enter the fray at all, though by taking this tack you miss out on the trio of soulspheres he's guarding, which poses a loooong, dangerous stretch with no healing available at all. Thus, there are many different possible combinations of waypoints, itineraries, and an unusual degree of optionality in small map.....in theory. The reality is, for all practical intents and purposes, you basically need to perform a complete clear of the map in order to become strong enough to win the final fight (on skill 4, I should emphasize -- perhaps the optionality is more effective on lower difficulty settings?). On point, I'd say the red key is a lot more important than the yellow; for the sake of fun/science I've learned to do the fight well enough without the V-sphere, but speaking for myself at least, I don't think I want to imagine attempting to clear it without a fueled flamethrower, given that there are no rockets whatsoever supplied for the fight per se -- if someone has a good strategy for doing it without any keys at all, my hat's off to you, and I'd love to see a .lmp/video! Incidentally, you can get the megasphere with either key, and for what it's worth I found the three braces of skull symbols above the altar used to show which key you need for which post intuitive enough. The thing is, though, given how the map loops its areas together, and how bruising the key fights themselves can be, if you're going to get the red key you might as well get the yellow (or vice versa); taking one but actively abstaining from the other strikes me not so much as a real/practical strategy, but rather something one might attempt as some sort of self-imposed challenge, ala abstaining from the V-sphere. All of this could fairly be taken to mean that there's a certain hamhandedness or inelegance in the map's overall balance. Make no mistake, there's definitely more than one way to clear the map -- the easiest/most reliable certainly being to learn everything and then creep through it at a snail's pace, cheesing the RK fight, micromanaging infighting with the minotaur to clear the start area, which in turn allows you to flee/safely camp the YK fight, etc. -- but a lot of the options which seem to be on the table are functionally no-hope red herrings, due to the realities of thing placement and the really severe attrition which a loop through the map tends to betoken (particularly at the RK fight), which in turn tends to strongly incentivize gathering/using resources from all areas, rather than leaving some behind as a tactical sacrifice. In this sense, then, the way progression and the basic logic of the map is framed is somewhat disingenuous, accidentally or otherwise. Yet, after playing it a few times, I came to feel that the over-the-top way it's balanced is crucial to the adrenaline-addled flight/fight + crash/burn playstyle which I found so appealing in this case, and other than the possible addition of more rockets for the final fight I don't think I'd want it toned down to be more 'sincere' in its optionality. For what it's worth, I liked the RK fight the most, and in its way it is the most flexible of the map's fights -- you can trigger it a little at a time, you can trigger everything and then quickly carve a path out and flee into the altar area/the back entrance to the YK cave, or you can stick it out and 'climb' from cubby to cubby, using them as cover from the liches' withering hexes (which, interestingly, targets only *you*, in the way that a vile's spell spawns on its target), incinerating everything in swathes like mowing a field. The ending fight, by contrast, is mostly about momentum and not spending too much fuel too soon, rattling wildly from bible-slab to bible-slab, like fighting inside an agitator sieve or such. The secret exit is a little unusual, in that you have to backtrack for it after finishing everything, though its location (and by extension the route of ultimate ingress to it) is visually telegraphed early on, and it's very simple to reach once you've put 2 and 2 together. The trick is realizing that you're able to leave the exit area once you're there; all it takes is a simple usepress, though in fairness the lift hardly looks like a lift in the conventional sense (not that some unconventional visual language like this should be surprising to those who've played some of Benjogami's other maps, I suppose). Map 31 -- Dr. Tongue's Castle of Terror - 100% Kills / 66% Secrets Like much of Impie's work for Doom, this is a direct reference to another game, that being the top-down shooter "Zombies Ate My Neighbors" (which is pretty good, if you're into that particular vintage). The map is named for and uses the music track from one of the game's posterchild levels, and very loosely follows some of the same structural beats (though it's greatly simplified/de-mazed here), most notably the laboratory at the heart of the castle. These Jeopardy/Trivial Pursuit/etc.-grade factoids are the only remotely interesting things about the map. As a Doom map, this is *extremely* bland; its impression is of a cleaned/polished presentation of what could very easily be a competent beginner's very first completed map, and given the author's experience is presumably just a scrap/fragment tossed in here as a bonus, not to be taken as an earnest offering. Walk through a few flat squarish rooms (and one somewhat foetid courtyard with an extremely simplistic switch "puzzle") and dutifully shoot a light smattering of enemies loafing about in them, who will likely be grateful you rescued them from their boredom. The end. Error: There is a radsuit in one of the sarcophagi in the main hall to allow you to avoid taking damage from the poisonous ground in the courtyard (not that it matters on point, as the map's thing balance renders any and all damage you take entirely irrelevant), but it cannot be accessed in non-ZDoom ports due to a tagging error/omission.
  14. Demon of the Well

    The DWmegawad Club plays: MAYhem 2019 & Alienated

    That's not the map brightening, that's a detail effect of using the flamethrower weapon -- once you draw it and fire it for even an instant (i.e. 'lighting the pilot'), it will make the surroundings brighter until you switch away to another weapon. Makes zero sense from a 'physics' perspective, of course, but still kinda cool. Map 14 -- Minotaur's Inferno - 100% Kills / No secrets Taking a page out of rdwpa's book: * Pickup fight -- since the platform the fight takes place on is octagonal (i.e. with roughly curving edge) and none too large, my instinct was to dash right up to the righthand corner of the gasbag group while hip-firing rockets into the mid-lefthand corner (reversing this orientation would also presumably work just as well). You only need to get a few off to start a chain reaction of death-explosions which will rapidly thin the crowd through the middle, and you can then run a sweeping arc following the edge of the platform into that corner (if you're not comfortable or familiar with the idea of tap-dodging--for my part I think I tend towards the sweeping 'cutback dodge' approach when given enough space) and continue firing into the rest of the group to quickly finish them off. Easy-peasy, bit of a throwaway fight in that if you're not comfortable with this kind of map this (relatively) soft intro is hardly going to magically 'ease you in', and likewise if you're very accustomed to them it's merely a trifle. * Eldritch waiting room -- As has been said, prefiring rockets is a great trick here (it's a great trick in general to have in your repertoire!), if you start pulling the trigger while you do the platform-hopping you can easily land 3-4 of them, which is almost enough to break the enemy line before the fight even starts. The pair of elevated starspawn are juicy targets, but I'd warrant it's better to aim for those on your level first, since the sooner their numbers are reduced the less likely they are to split into two groups around the elevated platform, which makes corner-cutting/moving from one end of the base platform to the other to gain enough space to continue safely firing rockets at the rest relatively simple. Probably the best of the three 'intro' fights, IMO. * Bovine trio fight -- I think I just got lucky with this one, cleared it very quickly despite the more pronounced diceroll aspect (i.e. do you land the Necro spells, and do they roll high damage, etc.). My tack was to fire at the 'taur in the middle first; he caught most of my shots with little trouble and went down quickly. This frees up the middle straightaway platform (with the 'infinite' medkit stack on it), so that you can dodge attacks from the remaining pair by moving forward/back rather than worrying about making quasi-platforming side-dodges, and also affords you a better firing angle to make it less likely they'll dodge your own shots. * Bloodspouts fight -- Not a huge fan of this one, it's the sort of battle where you more or less inevitably take a lot of chip damage from the roiling crowd of mooks, and so in a sense it's a damage-race -- if you kill enough enemies in the first few moments you'll probably win (albeit an ugly victory) by staying on the move around the perimeter, but try to overthink it or get too fancy/too 'efficient' and the enemies can easily overwhelm you, even though they're all relatively weak enemies in this case. In this regard it's a fight that showcases both the flamethrower's incredible lethality and its problematic rate of ammo consumption; it can carve through anything and everything here in an instant, but its ammo discharges so fast you can't just win the fight solely by carving and flailing, even short as it is. My strategy was to fire rockets into the southerly arachnorb-swarm in the first few moments of the fight (mildly annoying since the fight only starts as you pick up/autoswitch to the flamethrower) and then use the flamethrower to 'shovel' a furrow around the edge until most of the horde had consumed itself. Trying this without doing that initial thinning tended to result in lap interference from infinitely-tall arachnorbs near the weird little cross-shaped outcrop, I found. * Multifront warfare -- The main course. The strategy I settled on mirrors what rdwpa describes almost exactly, though after the first few attempts I stopped bothering with attacking the mob of swamp dudes (and dudettes) at all, just lingering against the southern wall (just before where the maulotaur battery begins) for a few moments at the outset to pull the group that way by a few yards, which reliably opens up a seam to cut back to the north and bypass them on their left flank to reach the switch activating the rest of the fight. I found that dealing with the cluster of arch-viles at the back end of the arena was the trickiest part; initially I thought to distract them with fire from the mother-brains, but the group is thick enough that the viles at the back will still nuke you if you come into range (which you must do to draw the brains' fire in their direction) while their compeers at the front absorb all of the projectiles. Likewise, you can counter-nuke them from afar with the Necronomicon without relying on infighting, but the amount of incidental damage you soak doing that (plus autoaim sometimes wanting to pull your projectiles towards a nearby brain instead of flying straight/narrow towards the viles in the distance) can vary wildly, making the approach unreliable. So, the best tack is to combine the two -- fire three or four projectiles on approach to thin their numbers, and then dive right through the group of viles to let the brain-plasma on your heels catch the rest of them, works more often than not once you get the hang of the timing. With the viles gone, it's all ring-marshalling (albeit on a large scale) -- hang along the east/left edge of the arena (as you look out from their little mound) to make a seam along the opposite edge in the growing tide of starspawn, then run along said seam, right under/past the maulotaur's hooves, scarfing a megasphere from the stockpile on the way, back to where you first landed on this table, stopping there briefly near the southern wall (spamming rockets all the while) to make another gap along the opposite side you can follow back to the vile-mound to rinse and repeat -- the mother-brains and the maulotaurs will all eventually be consumed by the great horde of starspawn, at which point all you have to do is clean up. * Final fight -- The victory lap. Being limited to one megasphere's worth of health/armor for the duration may seem intimidating, but this is a very simple fight in practice, I would say it's easier than any of the rest except for the throaway intro fights at the start of the map. Perhaps it sounds reductive, but all you really have to do is run laps at the right 'orbit' (that is, at a comfortable distance from the throng/pillar in the center, but not so close to the periphery that the mummies there can sometimes luck into an easy hit), nipping to the fringe to hit switches when it's convenient, until the situation thins itself out; you can facilitate this with rocket-fire, but other than hitting the switches your direct participation is largely unnecessary, in contrast to the previous fight, which had so much density that a largely pacifistic approach is untenable. I was surprised to see that the maulotaurs here expired fairly early on -- evidently they aren't all that super-tanky as they might seem, despite their typecasting as cyberdemon stand-ins. The highlight here is definitely the largest/penultimate fight, which spins tactical complexity out of a simple, flat, minimally-featured playspace (though its angling and shape are NOT accidental, don't make that mistaken conclusion!) by laser-focusing on the dynamics of different monsters' attack behaviors/projectile patterns. Weaponizing your enemies is crucial in this fight, but to do it effectively, you have to really have a plan and guide them to the desired sequence of events from the start (which you pull off using your own greatest assets, your footspeed and your wits) -- you can't just flounder around and let the situation develop unguided. Well, I mean, you can....but you probably won't make it out the other side. You could say this is a very 'meta' sort of fight in that regard, I guess; I generally prefer fights on this scale framed in more complex geometry, versus this more minimalist approach where 'the room' is largely defined as 'where the enemies are standing at a given moment', but this kind of thing has a certain charm of its own, and makes good practice for sharpening/more closely examining the 'metagame' aspect of your combat repertoire. The rest of the fights are all functional enough, though I reckon the map could probably cut any one of them and not seem 'lesser' in impact as a result; particularly where the 'stretching/breathing exercises' intro fights are concerned, though they do have the distinction of emphasizing adversarial terrain much more than any of the later fights, I suppose, which are all almost solely monster-driven.
  15. Demon of the Well

    The DWmegawad Club plays: MAYhem 2019 & Alienated

    Map 12 -- Necropolis Under Papa John's - 100% Kills / No secrets Hey, I recognize this place. Used to hang out here on lunch/off period before Chem class on Fridays, way back when (the Papa John's was a Chevy's Mexican Grill back then, as I recall, which would explain the change in aroma from 'piquant' to 'pungent'). Memories! This is a bracing romp, loosely in a sort of 'platforms and walkways over an abyss' vein ala "The Living End" or its many many scions, though the element of platforming is minimal in practice and mostly just serves as a more visually exciting way of having you fight in functionally small venues (just as well I suppose, some but not all of the pits appear to be inescapable). Fighting in somewhat constrained spaces is something of a general theme, though it's done in such a way that the level never feels cramped or overly restrictive, not only allowing but rewarding aggressive play, in stark contrast to m11 just prior. From the central casement where you begin, you can see that the the rest of the 'polis splits off into two wings (and much of the rest of the 'polis can also see *you* here, to whit); one leads to the red skullkey, and the other leads to the exit, the final stretch locked by said key. You can make good progress in either direction from the outset, though if you happen to take the exit leg before you have the key, backtracking to the locked door a second time afterwards is something of an inconvenience--nothing changes in the center or elsewhere when you take the key, perhaps something of a minor missed opportunity, so it's just an uneventful backtrack through a short obstacle course, not maximally elegant, I suppose. This is my only real criticism, though -- for the most part the map is straightforward fun, with a no frills focus on fights over high concept, which is refreshing at this point in the mapset. The placements are mostly well-judged for the combination of limited footing and long lines of sight which characterizes most of the layout, demonstrating again that the suite of new monsters and weapons can gel together into a fast-paced and very traditionally Doom-y, run/gun, 'agility as defense' experience (vs. a more attrition-based 'death comes swiftly to either side' flavor, ala Blood), in the hands of an experienced author. Lacking rocket launcher or chaingun, the action hinges heavily on the combination of SSG and the flamethrower, which feeds nicely into the general imperative to move around and tangle/tango with targets up close and personal, rather than trying to snipe your way through the map (incidentally, this was the first time I consciously noticed that the flamethrower increases the light in the environment after you've primed its pilot -- neat little touch). Another new creature, the maulotaur, debuts along the RK leg, appearing for a showdown on a platform small enough to ratchet up the tension and intimidation a few notches. Functionally, it seems to be a cyberdemon replacement, though its 'rocket' attack only launches a single projectile, and it has a secondary spreadshot fireball attack, ala its Heretic forebears. No big deal yet, all considered--he's as flammable as all of the other ghoulies, turns out. Not much more to say on this one, a very conventionally enjoyable map by another of the set's most experienced authors. Map 13 -- Storming the Estate - 100% Kills / 100% Secrets I seem to recall that earlier on I had expressed a hope that we'd encounter more horror-leaning stuff from MAY19 down the line. Perhaps I should have been more careful what I wished for.....the BGM here, folks, *that* is true horror. Mind-shattering, soul-searing revulsion given sonic shape. Abandon all hope ye who IDMUS13 here, etc. etc. (seriously though, no just no. Definitely recommend turning the music off or IDMUSing to a different track for this one.) That....eldritch matter....aside, my overall impression of this map is that it's akin to a more developed/expanded version of the same set of general ideas/design philosophies we first encountered in m02, trying more for a 'Blood in idtech1 flavor' defined by slower, more 'tactical' attrition-based combat taking place in broadly realistic/representational surroundings, though they tend progressively more towards abstraction the farther towards the map periphery one travels, which seems dominated by a vague 'lab' theme of sorts. The central courtyard is visually appealing and is fairly well-tuned for this kind of action, and some of the intermediate manor rooms are striking as well, though there is some roughness in places (incongruent detailing/alignment along steep staircases in the western annex), some apparent artifacting on certain sectors in the open sky in the courtyard (over the RK door, etc.), and notably more visual starkness in general towards the periphery, though this reads to me more as a result of deadline than of the author not realizing/caring about the relative discrepancy. I also encountered all of the notable bugs mentioned by other posters (save for untagged YK door, which I can't speak to) above; fortunately none really harm the level's overall functionality, but I mention them here again to cover the bases, and say that they aren't rare/fringe to encounter and are definitely worth a fix. I had interpreted the one-time secret in the garden as a bug rather than a feature, for what that's worth--the two ammo items are about equally valuable, but neither one is remotely impactful enough for the choice between them to seem to have any particular relevance down the line. So, like m02, the driving tension and form of excitement in battles in the map is that there's not a lot of healing around, and so rampant aggression is not really well-served. The dearth isn't anywhere near as severe as that in m02, however (ammo is also much more readily available for most weapons), and the general openness and height variation in most of the major areas makes for an experience with far more slack or leash to it than the deliberate battle of inches dominating most of m11. I reckon that most tastes will find this broadly more agreeable than the relative extremes seen in those earlier two maps, and I don't recall any particular engagement or area that I found actively unpleasant or troubling (the best little bit IMO is -- surprise surprise -- the 4-chainsawmbies trap), but by the same token the level does lack a really pronounced sense of pace or escalation as a result; your closest calls will likely be more or less self-inflicted, and the universal solution is generally more caution, taking things carefully until you've healed up (which usually takes a couple of clean engagements or so). The level is not without a climax, however -- releasing the final switch summons the lord of the manor, a version of the classic Heresiarch from Hexen, who has command of several different attacks, all of them devastating (none moreso than his apparent ability to railgun one of the blue wisps at you, rather scary that). In a way, this is something like the cyberdemon fight in "Tower of Babel" -- you face a tough/resilient enemy who can potentially kill you in one hit, or two at the most, no matter how strong you are -- but the amount of both open space and convenient cover available severely undercuts his capacity to levy threat, and so the greatest risk he presents is for players who choose to risk trying to burn him down quickly at close range with the flamethrower. In different circumstances I could see this enemy being genuinely oppressive (though his inheriting the bossbrain's map-ends-on-death property would seem so severely limit his place-ability); in this one his presence reads more like a 'for emphasis' nod to old traditions, which I suppose will naturally appeal to some tastes more than others.
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