Demon of the Well

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About Demon of the Well

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  1. Well, I've never really subscribed to the idea that everyone needs to play/appreciate some of everything in order to become certified as "well-rounded" or something equally silly like that, and it's generally been my experience that whatever the nature of your show/program, you usually get better episodes and better viewing when the player is genuinely enjoying whatever s/he is playing, rather than forcing themselves to muddle through it in the name of completionism or the like. If you don't have any present interest in slaughtermaps--even if you entertain the notion that you might be interested in learning more about them some time in the future , off-cam or however--you don't stand to gain much by forcing yourself to engage with them 'in the interest of fairness' or for any other reason. Best thing for your hobby is to play what you avidly want to play, and not worry overly much about appealing to or massaging the sensibilities of every possible demographic. That being said, if someone takes some flak on occasion for not being interested in slaughtermaps (at least hereabouts), I reckon it's not so much because people object to others not liking the same things they like (the gall!), so much as because they're taking what appears to be a more or less categorically dismissive stance based on some evidently vague/strawman idea of what the genre actually entails. Comments to the effect that the genre is comprised of the same identikit design styles over and over again, or founded primarily or disproportionately on hamfistedly spamming the BFG while twitching around and exercising very little in the way of actual brainpower (which are fairly common I assure you, even if this is not actually how you yourself personally feel) suggest, at the very least, that the speaker has not actually tried to engage with the style in any meaningful way, or an outside chance that they've somehow had the misfortune to only try the dregs of the style. The reality is that the genre as a whole is quite a bit more varied, nuanced and sometimes thoughtful than such broad dismissals give it credit for, and to some extent it's inevitable (and understandable, I think) that folks passionate about it might get a little testy about that on occasion. Doesn't mean it's personal, mind you! Edit: evidently NIH already wrote more or less the same thing on the previous page (and more succinctly too, unsurprisingly), so just consider this a +1 to the general sentiment, I suppose.
  2. Of the skies which use the large mountains, I'm most partial to the one with snow-capped green mountains and the green/brown overcast above. The color scheme of the sky meshes well with the colors in the dominating textures in the map below, giving a more stylized 'painted' look where the distinction between firmament and sky is not entirely clear, though I can see where some might feel the mesh is too close and blurs the actual landmarks too much for navigational purposes. I also like that selection because it gives me the impression of a somewhat colder place--something like a small city on the edge of an alpine lake a little ways below the treeline--which is uncommon in Doom outside of maps that fully commit to an ice/snow theme, which tend to turn a mite visually dry more often than not, regardless of author skill (IMO). Of the skies without much in the way of mountains/terrain, I quite like the very first one in the second post, with the red sky and duskfire in the strands of clouds. Sort of like how I feel about the green mountains above, I like this one because it immediately gave me more of a definite sense of location for the city below, this time something like an island town in the Caribbean or maybe the South Pacific. A mite campy in terms of travel brochure imagery, perhaps, but such a setting also arguably gives you a freer hand with some of that lava I see in the background.
  3. Cont'd... Map 19 -- Stargate As others have said, the main point of stylistic reference here is the Vrack series, by Fredrik Johansson. I'd say that the level of visual fidelity and the style of structural detailing and the like most recall Vrack III, while the level progression and layout most resemble Vrack II (though the open spaces are fewer), and the actual curve of the combat most resembles the original Vrack of all things, starting out with very traditional slowballing with basic weapons and a fairly tight early ammo supply, gradually and eventually building to more packed Plutonia-style brawls driven primarily by cells and rockets. The late V-sphere fights (that is, fights patently designed to be done with the V-sphere, but not actually requiring it) are something of a Vrack tradition, established early on in the very first installment, as aforesaid. Apart from the generally slick, futuristic spacebase theme, IIRC most references to the source material are more nods to form than very specific homages (ala the 'revenant curve' from m13), though it's been forever since I've played anything with the Vrack brand and so perhaps am missing some obvious examples. In terms of how tightly and intricately the structure of the base and its many different locks, decks, and holds is interwoven, this is arguably the most complex and elaborate of all of DVII's maps ("Unholy Cathedral" later on being the other obvious contender), though if you were to take a pensive walking tour without the need of having to constantly frag zombified space cadets and the like, I reckon it'd be fairly plain to see that the actual progression route is almost entirely linear and mostly micromanaged from point to point, and that much of the interconnectedness is purely cosmetic. Given the density of the smallscale, deceptively utilitarian architecture itself, to say nothing of the welter of colorful laser midtex and other trim applied atop, the usual bullet points/buzzwords about 'visual connectedness' and 'foreshadowing' seldom actually apply here in any meaningful way (the one big exception being the early looks you get at the actual Stargate itself before you actually reach it), though I don't think that this necessarily harms the level's presentation; there's a sense of scurrying around in the guts of a truly vast station at play here, and while the actual complexity is mostly smoke and mirrors in this case, it's commendable and a testament to the author's craft that the level gives the impression of being ever so much larger and expansive than it actually is. Also playing into this, perhaps, is that the closing stages of level progression (that is, preceding your trip out to the Stargate itself) involve what amounts to some relatively inelegant backtracking, complicated by the aforementioned complexity of structure with relative uniformity of theme to somewhat defeat most obvious modes of signposting. It's hardly a dealbreaker, and once you hit a certain point the repopulations of earlier areas with crowds of monsters make it fairly clear where to go, though how to get there is perhaps less clear if you're not possessed of a particularly sharp navigational memory. It can also be fairly said, I think, that of all of the DVII maps this is also the one that most closely fits an older pattern of gameplay (though at the time it was still enshrined in a number of notable ZDoom PWADs), speciously dubbed "classic" by some, wherein you primarily walk through a quasi-maze of corridors, gradually collecting weaponry and shooting various things which appear almost universally in front of you, in one way or another. It plays fine, I think, and wouldn't agree with the sentiment it's notably overlong (perhaps could've done without reusing the 'laser fence-maze' idea several times, though), though I do think it's one of the set's weaker levels (bearing in mind that's a very relative statement). Whatever else we might say of Pham, he was not one to ever half-ass anything, and I think it's evident that he was trying to inflect on the generally very straightforward staging of 99% of the battles by working to have monsters intimately crowd your space (hence the use of those timed metal airlock segments to allow monsters to all port in/get close to you before letting you have at one another), though one wonders if this was entirely by design from the get-go or a canny adaptation to a layout that turned out to be more tightly knit and have notably fewer more open spaces at work than any of the Vrack levels from which the map draws so much inspiration. Map 20 -- Desert Tomb Here, the take on the stylized ancient Egyptian theme most closely resembles that found in the second episode of Erik Alm's Scythe II, presumably not purely coincidental given that the cleanly chiseled, tastefully terraced and trimmed temple architecture seem to read much more like Alm's habitual style than Pham's more irregular, inset-laden one. I like to think the terrain views (which are quite striking if you take the time to look at them) are a fond nod to "Misri Halek" from Alien Vendetta, though this may or may not be coincidental given the author's predilection for this same type of expansive diorama detailing in various other (differently themed) maps. It's less clear if the level's slant on gameplay is informed by one of Alm's various austerity-themed levels (m29 of the original Scythe being perhaps the most popular, largely because it differs vastly in tone from the levels surrounding it), though perhaps the massive textfile might clear that up. Like m19 before it, the trip through the Temple is almost entirely linear and begins at a slow burn pace of using small arms and a limited ammo supply to skirmish with small groups of weaker foes or single powerful ones, the key difference being that the gameplay in "Desert Temple" commits to this idea for the duration of its (relatively short) runtime. Pressure is generated not so much through tricky placement as through keeping the player feeling as though they are just barely scraping by, mostly leaving actual threat to elide from nerves and from overthinking the generally simple encounters, occasionally trying to instill crucial moments of flash panic through suddenly introducing monsters at point-blank range via various trap mechanisms (almost all of which can be spotted and outwitted/outflanked by the canny player, incidentally). To put things in context: the level's 'boss fight' is a tussle with two Barons in a short-ish corridor (there's a group of revenants a couple of minutes later which are the actual final opposition, but you get significantly more room to move/retreat when you fight them). Yes, you read that right. No, there's not really any trick/gimmick to it, beyond the fact that a 'conventional' playstyle will likely see you almost entirely out of ammo at that point, requiring you to fistfight them, which is not trivial given the setting. Foreknowledge of the map (or some talent for recognizing and managing austerity scenarios during blind play) will carry you through this all much more relatively comfortably, mind you, and as this type of map goes this one is far from being among the most infamously tight/demanding, but it's a stylistic change that is always going to make some segment of the audience uncomfortable and fidgety, underscoring the commitment to variety in that sense. For my part, I'm not at all averse to this type of play/balancing in measured doses, though like many other maps with similar philosophy also designed with an eye towards demo recording I think its capacity for zest suffers at least slightly because the thing balance is overtuned to the point where certain items (i.e. the rocket launcher) are so limited in their 'correct' usage that you're basically not allowed to have real fun with them if you want to try something different. So, while the level is perhaps one of my least favored in the set (also not terribly fond of the regular secret level IIRC), I still pretty much never skip it when I play this simply because I like the setting so much, which I think shines in its relative layout simplicity in comparison to the similarly-arranged m19 prior, allowing much more space for cinematic vista and more clearly distinct areas (i.e. temple terraces, hill-climb, outlying graveyards, weird non-damaging molten gold pit, etc.) as it does.
  4. For point of conversation, the kind of thing you've described--where what seems like it's an exit turns out not to actually be one--usually doesn't bother me much, no. On the contrary, false exits or what seem like map stops with an additional coda after them are a cool design trope I'd actually like to see more of, granting that if any single set (or probably any single author) were to use them too heavily they'd rapidly become predictable, and thus lose a lot of the magic. All else being equal, your idea for a huge fakeout sounds entertaining to me, I say go for it as far as that's concerned. What I do dislike, though, is basically the opposite of what you've described: a map that ends suddenly at some point that doesn't read like it should be the exit, the most common offenders being unmarked switches or exit lines placed in such a way that it looks onscreen like there's a lot more building/terrain (and thus, more map) beyond them. Some folks seem to like leaving maps with vast swathes of content unseen because it leaves a certain sense of mystery and something to look forward to on a theoretical replay, but the reality I usually find myself facing is that I won't be replaying most things for months, years, or maybe ever (which is primarily a matter of time constraints rather than one of predilection), and so I like to be able to avoid leaving inadvertently/before I'm ready in most cases.
  5. ^^ Don't take this the wrong way, but the last time I replayed that, however many years ago it was (probably spurred by a post about it on the Onemandoom blog, I suspect), I was frankly shocked to find your name on one of those maps. It's,'s really bad, man, haha. Maybe the Club will play it someday, see how many others share my opinion. :D
  6. * Doesn't know what a fidget spinner is * After I got done killing all of the imps out in the yard, I saw that there were windows on some octagonal chambers high up along the east wall where the gunswitch could be targeted from normally, but I never ended up finding my way into them, thinking at the time that they must be involved in the one official secret (apparently not?). So, I had to find another way. I wonder if the brothers knew the secret exit could be reached in the way I did? It's very hard to tell with maps of this age just how much authors understood about the finer quirks of the engine and the way these can sometimes be exploited to circumvent conventional map progression, but at the same time the Möllers were obviously more savvy than most at the time and might have viewed this stuff as fair game for players sharp/lucky enough to see the opportunities. Incidentally, a third alternate way of hitting the gunswitch is to get the cacodemon to chase you, hide directly on the other side of the switch's platform so it drifts over top to follow, and then shooting at it with the shotgun in such a way that some of the spread triggers the switch. E3M9 -- Savage Area - 100% Kills / 100% Secrets Of all of the maps in the episode, this seems to be one that is most getting mentally 'lost in the shuffle', so to speak--I'm having trouble recalling much about it at the moment, outside of the rather trollish treatment of secret sectors in the long toxin-sewer corridor and the notable inclusion of a rather strange optional cyberdemon battle, 'optional' in the sense that it's extremely easy to miss entirely, to boot. I think I knew about the yellow door which doesn't actually require the yellow key from an earlier playthrough--in my youth I used to always try to open doors clearly signposted as locked because I erroneously believed that you had to do so to get them to show up properly on the automap--but usually I'm not inclined to take advantage of major slip-ups like that, this time being no exception. Incidentally, one of the upper level switches in the computer area beyond the nifty drawgate-style blue door can be easily activated with an infinitely-tall usepress from the floor below, although the overall impact on progression here is minimal to the point of irrelevance. The secret placement here is pretty asinine, if I do say so, though there are certainly better and worse ways of going about getting them all if you're the completionist type, the main thing being to get the blue armor secret first, which will have a major impact on the amount of incidental damage you end up soaking from splashing around in the toxin while triggering the essentially pointless series of secrets along the rest of the tunnel. The cyberdemon fight, accessed by leaping into an elevated teleporter pad in the toxin-fountain from a hidden nook high in one of the walls, is to all appearances designed as a gimmick fight of sorts, where the intended method of killing the cyb is presumably to lure him into the sinking pit to be crushed by the large pumping piston suspended from the covering in the center of the room. In practice, this method is both ineffective and tedious, since the cyberdemon will often be stuck in space from walking over the lift trigger at an improper angle, and even when he does finally get caught under the crusher it only inflicts a paltry amount of damage as a result of being the standard type rather than the slow type. That being the case, it's far more efficient to kill him with direct weapons fire, though from pistol-start this requires scampering about on the peripheral ledge to access a number of side chambers, one of which contains a plasma gun suited for the task. Not difficult to see why this map was chosen for a secret slot. As with SUDTiC's secret level, not one of the set's stronger offerings, IMO. Oh, and as a general aside, while this is something you can see in a number of other places throughout the mapset, you'll likely notice that the zombies and other monsters at the end of the long sewer tunnel don't wake up until you get closer to them, even if you fire in their area while it seems like they should be able to easily spot you. My best guess as to why this happens is that the reject-data threshold the map/set is using is apparently rather small (which would make sense, since most of the layouts are made of tightly-knit, confined rooms and corridors), meaning that when you first enter the tunnel you're actually too many pixels away from these actors for them to be able to "see" you initially, meaning they won't become active (even with sound readily leaking into their sector) until you walk partway down the hall. E3M7 -- Infested Ruins - 100% Kills / 100% Secrets I don't think this map is the one that should be credited for instilling the whole "always look behind you at mapstart" thing into me at a young age, though it's certainly an example of why this simple practice is generally worth the second or two of gametime that doing it requires, since the load of shells you can acquire from the optional/hidden trip into the yard beyond the starting hall makes a considerable difference in early momentum (from pistol-start). Like pretty much all of the other maps in the set, from pistol-start you will be using the shotgun almost exclusively here, incidentally, and while it's certainly more than up to the task from a pure balance perspective, after 8 maps of the same non-progression in armament I feel pretty comfortable saying the that pistol-start balance in TEUTiC is pretty lacking, moreso than in either SUDTiC or the later Obituary. I think the design here is falling prey to waffling about and refusing to commit decisively to either of the two standard mapset balancing styles (longform/continuous-oriented vs. the far more common pistol-oriented), with the result being that while the maps are certainly beatable from pistol-start without the need for austerity techniques or metagamery or anything of that sort, they often come off like dry-humping because you almost never get to use any weapon other than the shotgun, even the humble chaingun being a fairly rare appearance. Both the RL and the set's only BFG eventually appear in this map, incidentally, but the RL shows up very late and can only be used effectively with foreknowledge or good foresight, while there is honestly never anything worthy of even considering bringing out the BFG, suggesting that it's primarily intended as a trump card for the oddly-balanced E3M8. The action being broadly similar to that found in Thomas's other maps in the set (with early austerity if you don't check behind you at the start being the main point of departure), the main thing distinguishing "Infested Ruins" from earlier maps is that it seems to have more of an actively creepy/atmospheric bent. I think that E3M5 still technically has the highest ratio of Hell : non-hell texture assets, but this one is certainly the most macabre in presentation, featuring draining pools and eventually whole rooms filled with mutilated and despoiled corpses, and more of a constantly and uneasily shifting blend of supernatural and sci-fi elements, whereas earlier maps often tended to sequester each of the two broad themes within discrete areas. Mechanical interconnections between areas are not as elaborate as in some of Thomas's other maps, but I got a sense that here he was actively focusing on using architecture in subtle ways as purely visual flourish--the aforementioned gruesome scenes, the angled stairs and finely cut ceiling near the RK, the shifting floor panels near the YK, things of that nature. As aforesaid, action here is pretty par for the course by this point in the mapset. Lots of folks seem to remember spelunking in the bloody septic tank for the blue skull, a sequence which can quickly become quite frazzling if you don't snag the hidden-but-not-secret radiation shielding suit from the nearby secret compartment (incidentally, giving players a possible opportunity to see that suit ahead of time seems to be the only real practical gameplay reason for having the marble torches/grates room as part of the layout, though as aforesaid it's kind of a cool-looking little room in its own right). The post-RL trap can be surprisingly effective for something built before Boom-age actions (which generally make it vastly easier to stage a variety of flash-ambushes than it is with vanilla actions alone), but the RL itself will handily liquefy the threat if you use it decisively (though it can also get you injured/killed pretty easily if you hesitate). I remembered to kill the final cacodemon this time. I think almost every other time I've played the WAD he got left behind, quite understandably, I think. E3M8 -- Raze - 100% Kills / No secrets Heh, I very nearly died to the first group of zombiemen, probably closer than I came at any other point in the mapset to biting the dust. Just goes to show, it's usually unwise to underestimate even the weakest of enemies. Anyway, yeah, this is pretty daft. I don't have a whole lot to say about it, apologism or otherwise, though I do sincerely believe it's worth remembering when looking at something like this in hindsight that there was a time when this sort of thing--especially framed as part of a serious/authentic episode replacement!--was new and maybe even a little shocking. As with the rest of the episode, from pistol-start once again all you get to work with as far as firearms go is the shotgun (and a berserk pack, though the rest of the thing placement suggests it's there more as a health equalizer than as something meant to be taken seriously as an offensive option), which amounts to some beyond-simple plinking exercises if you play 'conventionally' and fight each monster group as it appears. Particularly to a modern player, though, it's almost impossible to ignore the potential for a basic infighting cauldron here, and pistol-start or no this is by far the most entertaining way to clear the map. The biggest challenge in this regard is not actually surviving, but in killing all of the monsters before the map ends, since the spiderbrain will often bite it before the rest are dead (esp. Cybie), though I actually got pretty lucky and pulled it off on the first try this playthrough, mainly because the cyberdemon was having an off day or something and got roughed up pretty bad by the Barons and cacos, weakening him enough for the spider to finish him (with the help of a few buckshot rounds in the backside from yours truly). As far as comparing SUDTiC to TEUTiC goes, I think I tend to agree with Capellan, in that I'd say TEUTiC has higher highs (esp. E3M1), but also lower lows, perhaps. I reckon I'd also say that while SUDTiC is certainly rougher from a technological/craft standpoint than TEUTiC as a whole, it seems to have more distinct ideas in its design, both within maps and between them; each map of SUDTiC feels like its own distinct thing, whereas much of the middle stretch of TEUTiC seemed to me to be a mite interchangeable (esp. Thomas's maps), which again I suspect is largely a side-effect of the rather prudish approach to weapon/supply placement that dominates throughout. Nevertheless, to say that these mapsets are a cut above most of what else was available at the time is a rather severe understatement, as even other notable sets of the time tended not to display the level of development in both mechanical and fight design seen in this pair. I will probably end up sitting out of Obituary in favor of catching up at least a little bit on some other things (both Doom and non-Doom), but I still am quite looking forward to reading others' thoughts about it, as it was one of the most smoothly put-together partial conversions of its day, a far cry from some of the other disasters from around the same time, ala Lord of the Flies or the like.
  7. I was originally going to post this in a recent thread that basically revolved around the idea that the (mapping) community is actively hostile to new ideas and new mappers, as predicated on some series of events I've not investigated in any real depth where a certain mapper's efforts were barred from a community project for essentially refusing/failing to abide by the project's ground rules. Included was a layout shot of the map itself, which some cursory investigation showed to be essentially a disjointed collection of mostly dissociated rooms and ideas slathered in a motley mix of ZDoom features--a pretty ordinary newbie map of the 'fingerpaint collage' style, in other words, something we've all seen before. As I was writing this, the thread rapidly descended into the worst sort of Internet Melodrama (which was presumably the OP's intent from the get-go), and it seemed somewhat foolish to me to dignify it with a direct response, but I still want to post it somewhere anyway, in the off chance that a new mapper might chance upon it and find a little food for thought. I've edited it to be more general in thrust, but some specific references to the original thread/OP are still there, which surely introduces some awkwardness in parsing, and my posting this here instead of there will  perhaps be seen as needlessly cowardly or passive-aggressive by the reader of a certain social predisposition, but I suppose I can live with that.





    I've been playing the game more or less actively for as long as it has existed, and I've seen many a design trope or philosophy rise and fall, and in many cases rise and fall again. I suspect I'll see some of them rise and fall a third, fourth, even a fifth time, if I keep watching for long enough. While the play/design styles between some of these forms are as different as day is from night, they've all proved to have lasting appeal for some significant subsection(s) of the community because they learned from, built upon, or honed in on something that people liked about the base game or from one of the WADs/mods that came before, while de-emphasizing or even entirely discarding other aspects of the game of less present interest to the creator. There is no rational or justifiable reason to view learning from what has come before as a necessarily toxic or self-limiting approach to creating, and the implication that the 'established' community at large really only "wants one thing" as a result of some slavish devotion to convention is, at best--and this is me being artificially civil, here--willfully ignorant at best.


    Lately, for instance, I've been watching one of the community's members stream (on Twitch) the creation of a painstakingly detailed, balls-hard but entirely monster-free puzzle map. This is a map that will--quite understandably!--likely appeal to only a fairly niche audience, but I can almost guarantee you most onlookers will be able to appreciate and respect the level of craft and thought involved in the creation of such a whimsical and idiosyncratic thing, even if it's not the sort of thing everyone might actually enjoy playing in their leisure time. I can also almost guarantee you the map will be remembered a few years down the road, something predicated not only on it being what it is, but also on it functioning correctly and at least reasonably intuitively for what it is, which, again, is a state of affairs largely built on drawing from established wisdom and experience (selectively interpreted, of course!). Certain extreme cases aside, most appeals or references to established practice, particularly those between fellow creators working alongside one another on this or that project, are not used as blunt instruments to stamp out creativity or new ideas, but as whetstones to hone them into the best they can be.


    I've seen the map screenshotted as a layout in the OP before. I've played it. I first played it in early 1995 or so, when I got my first shovelware CD. I've played it hundreds of times since then, and I'll probably play it many more times in many more iterations before I'm through. I've seen it rendered in a form that will run in the original distro version of the original executable, and I've seen it buried under a veritable mountain of advanced engine features, requiring bleeding-edge SVN builds of modern sourceports to load and launch (I hesitate to say "to function"). It's not without value or potential! I've seen it provide interesting ideas and memorable vignettes that I'm thankful I got to experience. More often than not, I've seen it take the form of a mechanically dysfunctional, effectively and occasionally quite literally unplayable mess, which in the worst cases reads like a tragedy because you can still occasionally see flashes of the cool ideas crushed under the weight of the sundry failures in mechanics and implementation and basic usability design, like a mangled hand poking out of the rubble left in the wake of some natural disaster, weakly grasping at the air. Happily, there have been occasions where I've seen it nurtured, refined, and ultimately built into something worthy of a visit by everyone, giving the cool, sometimes quirky ideas within a chance to shine and get some of the appreciation they deserve. More often than not, though, I've seen them rot on the vine, sacrificed at the altar of wounded pride.


    I've also seen the Grand Prophesy declared in the OP (** essentially the idea that the community is doomed by being shackled to convention, though basically phrased as "the meek shall inherit the earth and cast down the Tyrants") spoken many, many times before. Not once in over two decades has it ever been vindicated, which, if we take a little flick of Occam's razor, is likely because no one really wants it to be--newcomer or old hand alike. Something to be thankful for, yes?

    1. Ichor


      The reason why Doom is still popular even today isn't so much because of new people. That's the effect. It's because the game is extremely easy to make maps and mods for just about anything. A new person can download Doom Builder or whatever and make a map inside of five minutes. It may not be Misri Halek, but it's still a map and if he enjoys making and playing it, than more power to him. Just as long as it's not a terry wad.


      The game will continue to endure (and by proxy Heretic and Hexen, and maybe Strife). Once that source code was released back in the 90s, that's when Doom took on a life of its own and it won't be halted anytime soon. Now there are so many options for making maps: boom, prboom, gzdoom, zandronum, chocolate doom, doomsday, even vavoom still has some people using it for maps. Doom isn't going anywhere anytime soon, no matter what some random loon might say.

    2. Ichor


      Oh, and I played that map of his. There were a bunch of tech columns blocking the way out of the first room, and the only switch around requires all 6 keys.

    3. Demon of the Well

      Some greater or lesser part of the base map wasn't even of the OP's making, it seems, but was rather made by another new face. Much of the reason for the OP being ousted from the community project was apparently because he insisted on adding/changing a bunch of things (some outside of the project's design scope on a technical level) in that person's map without consulting them about it, which of course is quite understandable. Realistically speaking, in fairness, I somehow doubt the original creator would take these changes terribly personally or anything (not like they couldn't be tried and reverted if need be, after all), but of course it's something of a "principle of the thing" issue, and one can't help but wonder how much more functional/playable the base map actually is without the OP's "visionary improvements."

    4. Eris Falling

      Eris Falling

      "He's not the Messiah, he's a very naughty boy!"

    5. MysteriousHaruko


      I played half of the map(you needed shoot switch behind pilliars to progress further). It wasn't worth all drama and attention. I played better zdoom maps than this. Now I feel bad for playing that map.

    6. Da Werecat

      Da Werecat

      You were obnoxious and people are yelling at you? Pretend you're being punished for your opinion.


      You made a weak map and are being criticized? Pretend you're being punished for your innovation.


      It's a long list, but it's unnecessary, because it all looks about the same.

  8. -- ENGAGE --, pt. II E3M4 -- Disastrous Unrest - 100% Kills / No secrets Zero secrets? Huh, weird. This is much simpler in design than Denis's E3M1, in many ways perhaps even simpler than much of his work in SUDTiC. The starting rooms are fairly elaborate in design--dig the staged spot of platforming that takes you out of the starting area, rather convincingly simulates room-over-room construction--but as one moves deeper in these are quickly replaced by fairly nondescript boxes and hallways clothed in a variety of themes, military green and corporate-kitsch blue carpeting predominating, but also including medieval wood, marble, computer readout panels and others in a freeform array. The main point of distinction from the maps that surround it, which also tend to be very corridor-heavy, is a matter of scale, these spaces generally being less tight/claustrophobic than those often favored by Thomas. A far cry from sophistication vs. E3M1, all told; there is occasionally some sense of wanting to have a particular room or space act as a centerpiece of sorts by dint of having the player pass through it a number of times, as in the case with the room with the large poison pool to the east, but in practice most of the actual goings-on tend to take place in the closed corridors surrounding these areas, and so the impression of an important space never really comes through. Most notable thing about the play is the thing balance, which is noticeably tighter than in any of the previous three maps. The early berserk pack is somewhat of a red herring, in that while you can certainly use it against imps/pinkies to help build up an early ammo buffer, it's never really a marquee weapon since you'll often be engaging messy clots of hitscanners or monsters at some different elevation level (or both). Shotgun is again the primary weapon, though the chaingun also has a stronger showing here than in many of the following maps, since it's placed in the open fairly on and is thus difficult to overlook. Monster placement definitely favors raw quantity over all else, large chunks of the opposition appearing as blocks to be mowed down as one first enters their space. For all of its simplicity, this can be surprisingly dangerous depending on how neat and tidy your play is; armor is nonexistent as far as I recall, and healing is very sparsely doled out, mostly appearing in the form of the occasional stimpack. This is a rather low-budget way of lending extremely simplistic monster placement some element of threat; many will understandably resent it, but if there's anything to be said for it it's that this approach to balance is the last time the set's heavy slant towards zombie-blocks vs. the shotgun in simple spaces feels like it still has ground to be explored as a concept. The final encounter at first seemed like some kind of bug or design oversight to me, since the monsters don't appear until after you're safely past them and can hit the exit switch, but since this same thing happens again in a later map I can only presume it's an intentional design. Odd. E3M5 -- Infernal Vortex - 100% Kills / 85% Secrets Somewhat reminiscent of Thomas's E2M3 from SUDTiC, featuring a small hub with some element of environmental hazard leading to a selection of one-off conceptual areas. 'Conceptual' is perhaps too lofty a term to use here, though; most of what I saw here read to me more like idle shape-making doodles in the editor (which, it seems, may have indeed been spurred by developments in editor capabilities?) rather than construction serving any particular end in design. The most accomplished of these is probably the two-level 'fourleaf clover' setup surrounding the final key, while something like the tangle of lo mein noodle corridors surrounding the pentagram pit reads as decidedly uninspired (and something of a minor pain in the ass to fully clear out if you're aiming for maxkills). In line with E3M3 earlier, at the northeast corner there's also a patch of much more representational design just for the heck of it, in the form of a shooting gallery/firing range. Given the nature of the setup, the actual combat here is about as lively as you'd expect (read: not very), though all the same it's hard not to see some charm in how lovingly the area is put together, particularly the finely shaped and trimmed ammo bays, even moreso than the range itself. The map is also mildly notable for being the one in the set which looks most like it credibly fits in the traditional Inferno theme (though it has some competition in E3M7 in that regard), featuring only a couple of isolated computer rooms in the context of a generally infernal texture scheme and setting. In practice the shotgun vs. groups of fodder occupying small rooms and narrow corridors thing is once again the order of the day here. The somewhat overly coy approach to pistol-start balancing in the set as a whole (i.e. where you're pretty much always using the shotgun, maybe the chaingun if you're lucky, and almost never any other weapon) was beginning to wear a mite thin for me by this point, though ironically Thomas's apparent eccentric fondness for the chainsaw granted this map something of a reprieve early on, since that weapon is available in the start room (albeit lightly hidden) and is a pretty effective/efficient choice for carving through the complex marble interlocks comprising the first area, where the enemies are chiefly pinkies and imps rather than hitscanners. I think I also mass-melted the comically oversized throng of zombies milling around in the circular yard near the fourleaf clover setup with the plasma gun, which of course was patently unnecessary overkill on a tactical level but quite welcome as an opportunity to cut loose with something other than buckshot for a change. Mind you, you'll only have the weapon if you've the necessary stubbornness to claim it from its rather environmentally inhospitable secret area, which is half-flooded in toxic blood, requiring you to carefully clear out its occupants by luring them to the entrance and then using stimpacks floating in the mire to partially offset the damage you take running to the prize at the far back corner, which can be significant if you try it without any armor (all armor also being hidden in secrets, IIRC). This particular design tack is for the most part patently unpopular today (and, TBH, I rather doubt most folks were very amused by it in the 90s, either), but again, I'm inclined to think of it as ballsy approach to adding a sense of something different to an otherwise standard pushwall/item cache secret. E3M6 -- Dark Altar - 85% Kills / 0% Secrets Another weird one. Cool name, though nothing I saw ever really struck me as being much like an altar, or indeed any other place of ritual (perhaps it was in the part of the map I managed to miss?), the overall setting reading something like an infested faux-rustic admin building, with lots of windows between areas and a mixed wood/tech/cement theme. It's the smallest map since E3M1, too, and so I reckon the fact that a sizeable chunk of it seems to be hidden/optional is a pretty bold decision. I quite like the opening battle here, a good example of a hold the door/hold the breach fight done right, using droves of enemies which can be killed just barely quickly enough with your shotgun as they approach from more than one angle. The more compact nature of the layout and more concise nature of the level progression in concert with the consistently high monster density which has characterized most of Thomas's maps in the set somewhat refreshes the sense of bloodiness which carried E3M3 and which had begun to wane through E3M4/E3M5, though in parts I think he frankly overplays his hand and starts to inch out of the realm of 'staging a bloody massacre' and into that of 'wasting the player's time', ala the ridiculously overstaffed and catastrophically ineffective shotgunner pillbox in the southwest room, or the similarly staffed and effectively pointless blue/tech room on the east side (chainsaw is of very little use in this level). The player retraverses the central space a few times, though it never really gets properly restaffed (I think some lost souls eventually wander into it from somewhere?), which seemed like a lost opportunity. There's also a nearly invisible slow-crusher in a narrow hallway at one point that has likely caused more than its share of ragequits through the years, though I was fortunately able to recall/avoid it owing to prior experience. Secret exit path here is pretty weird. Pretty creative, too, in that think-outside-the-box, metagamey sort of way, not unlike the path to E3M9 in the original Inferno (at least in the days before straferunning was widely understood, at any rate)...that is, assuming it's actually intended to work in the way that I made it work. In fact, I wasn't entirely sure I didn't break the intended progression somehow by managing to hit the gunswitch that kicks it off from a place I wasn't supposed to be able to (I hit it during a mid-air leap after a return trip on the teleporter atop the little wood spire in the nearby side-yard), which might explain the part of the map I missed. Edit: apparently not, seems the bit I missed was a monster-stuffed sidetrack ending in a soulsphere off of the tiny 'garden' at the end of the lava/platforms room, which I guess means the flying gunshot followed by tiptoeing around the awkwardly shaped/blocked metal platform is indeed the intended sequence of events for the secret exit. Quirky!
  9. Wall of text mode: -- ENGAGE -- E3M1 -- Out of Control - 100% Kills / 100% Secrets Echoing the sentiments of others, I think this is a pretty cool map, and not just "by 1994 standards", either--it's just plain cool, period. I daresay it might actually be the best map in the set (and how often have I said that about an m01/m1 before?), and I think it feels more like a complete, coherent finished design than anything that follows it, which seems to somewhat fly in the face of expectations I had that something by Thomas would inevitably steal the show in TEUTiC. Level progression is charmingly nuanced and unorthodox here, beginning with an almost immediate (unprotected) plunge into a toxic trench, and while the actual extent of the playspace is fairly limited (smallest map in the set with the possible exception of E3M8, I think?) a lot of mileage is wrung out of it through using a lot of elaborate traversal based on physical changes in the environment in concert with liberal usage of lifts, bridges, and teleporters in lieu of direct avenues of traversal between objectives; often you feel as though you're worming your way gaps and loopholes in the construction rather than following the 'intended' in-world route, which is cool. From a more purely aesthetic standpoint, the level is also notably more thematically coherent than anything in SUDTiC, using a fairly disciplined scheme of toxin, industrial composite, the signature Möller rusty metal (used for both support/trim and structural purposes), and some moldy gothic flourishes for that touch of macabre flavor. Every part of the layout is robustly featured in one way or another, ala the elaborate crusher-finish to close the map out, and even some of the apparently cosmetic stuff is hiding more than it may initially seem, ala the cacodemon behind the crucifix opposite the red key. Indeed, perhaps barring its immediate followup in E3M2, the level seems to have been conceived as more of a whole place with a definite identity than anything else in the set, the later maps all adopting the more classic surreal thematic mashup ala the original Shores of Hell that was the order of the day in SUDTiC. Having just sessioned the whole set, it also strikes me that if anything TEUTiC leans even more heavily towards sci-fi/techbase than towards Hell/gothic stuff than SUDTiC, a quirk of direction considering that it's replacing E3. As a general note, the only real disappointment in the presentation here is that this time around the authors opted not to reshuffle the episode's music tracks, for whatever reason....maybe they felt the original track order suited the new levels just fine, or summat? I think it plays well, too, comfortably/credibly slotting into a reasonable m1 difficulty without feeling like it's going out of its way to handle you with kid gloves. There are a number of entertaining little traps on offer, several of which make good use of the oft-underestimated pinky demon, which by all appearances must be Denis's favorite monster. The difference in design between this and something like E2M2 of SUDTiC, where the monsters were mainly hostile bits of scenery used to fill out the setting, is quite striking, I thought, and the ambush at the blue keycard is very arguably the most effective trap in the whole WAD, at least as far as modern ideas about pressure and its application go. I also quite liked the introduction of the Baron (who disappears almost entirely from the game for most of the rest of the episode, sadly), staged to bellow in your face and chase you into a soft dead end when you first meet him, but also in such a way that a keenly aware player can foil his ambush by taking potshots at his back by paying attention to changes in the environment as they happen. So, yes, good map, for 1994 or any other year. E3M2 -- Military Depot -- 100% Kills / 100% Secrets Odd one. Rather off-brand for the usual Möller style; from looking level geometry on the automap, and considering the somewhat 'realistic' bent of the setting, it occurred to me that maybe this was intended as some kind of experiment in Tom Hall's style of mapping, something like that (we do know that the brothers were quite fond of the original E2, after all). Even moreso than m1, there's a definite sense of setting here, depicting something like a deep storage facility, complete with cold rooms, quaratine bays for storing hazardous waste, cargo lifts, a hidden security station, and of course the demi-requisite warehouse full of unlabeled crates. It's noticeably flatter than any other map in the set, and more blandly lit (particularly pronounced in the eyestraining uniform fullbright of the expansive warehouse), and probably doesn't stand as a particularly bright spot in Thomas's mapping career, and yet it's certainly interesting, in its own particular way. Progression here is rather obtuse, doubly so since the layout never really loops back or provides some other form of shortcut for returning to earlier areas, like many of Thomas's other maps do. I mean, it's pretty clear that you need to somehow eventually reach the blue keycard, seen early on (though if you're the sort of player who insists on spending every moment with the game as though it were either a speedrun or a practice session in preparation for one you might miss even this, since the key is introduced behind you as move forward from the start area), but it's never really clear how to actually do this until you've done it. Myself, I honestly couldn't tell you what actually causes the key to become available, or when; I simply ended up wandering back there at some point because I'd run out of stuff to do deeper in the base, and found that the barrier consoles had receded granting access. Further muddling this is the whole to-do involving the the hidden 'security center', mentioned earlier, which I've dubbed thusly because it contains teleporter booths granting quick access to other parts of the base (always with port destinations in other, similarly hidden rooms). Several of these areas contain switches, and while the four in the security center itself are transparent in function (opening up each of the four booths), the effect of many of the others is never readily apparent. Some surely drive changes in the warehouse area, granting access to extra monsters/supplies, but could others perhaps be involved in the BK quest in some way? Again, I couldn't say, myself. All the weirder, you can even get an early peek at the setup if you make it through the one-time door triggered during the sergeant ambush in the long southern corridor, which takes you into the strange mostly empty cement 'auditorium' but then promptly kicks you out via a functionally invisible teleport spot blocking off the room's prominently displayed switch. Curiouser and curiouser. "Objectively" speaking, I reckon this map's something of a case of "more interesting than actually good", though in truth I still kind of liked wandering through it, only really resenting the piss-poor choice of lighting in the warehouse area. There's something ballsy about refusing to draw clear delineation between mandatory progression and optional content, even by 1994 standards (and especially considering that the TiC WADs are generally much more 'authentic' to the spirit of the original game than a great many other PWADs of the time), and I find it hard not to admire that. Also some credit is due for a relatively comfortable marriage of representational design with the actual gameplay concept of the map (though as aforesaid it's rather Wolf3D in terms of combat dynamics, granted), which is something that talented PWAD authors still often struggle with to this very day. E3M3 -- Lost Defense Base - 100% Kills / 100% Secrets This is much more representative of the rest of Thomas's maps in TEUTiC, an eclectically-themed nukage/storage/computer base vaguely implied to be situated "somewhere unpleasant" from the occasional brief peaks the passerthrough is afforded at the surrounding geography. Built largely of confining corridors with a lot of elaborate mechanical linkages between areas (a series of motion-sensitive shields along the northern silo stretch, building stairs, moving lifts, and some of Thomas's signature 'interlock' passages, ala E2M5 of SUDTiC), it eventually loops back to where it begins provided you explore sufficiently, and is stuffed to the gills with fodder monsters, ensuring you'll be carving many a notch into the butt of that decidedly hard-won shotgun. As mentioned above, the overall aesthetic impression is very much like what one might expect to see in some lost chapter of The Shores of Hell, though the mechanical and architectural sophistication the Möllers prided themselves on is very much in evidence (I particularly like the buttressed cut-through staircase on the east side), and there are some bits of representational design for additional flavor, ala the large missiles in the northern silos (and they are totally missiles, at least presuming that this is a 'Defense Base', in the same sense that something like NORAD is a 'Defense Base' ;) ). The 'most memorable' setup in the map for me, in the sense that I immediately recognized it despite not having played this set in nigh on two decades, is indubitably the huge (and mostly harmless) battery of imps which greet you from across the nukage-reservoir as you return topside with the blue key after visiting the silos. Funny how stuff like that can stick with you. More substantive, I suppose, would be the pistol-start, which I think is quite entertainingly designed here: you aren't just handed a shotgun, one way or another you have to work for it, which involves taking some non-trivial risks: you either ignore the pack of demons baying for your blood in favor of pressing deeper into danger in hopes of finding something to turn the tide (<-- how very modern, yeah?), or alternatively you can use some fancy footwork and a bit of wit to outsmart that first trap and slip into the pens the demons emerge from, where you'll find a shotgun and a case of shells to put them down with. Later action in the map mostly involves protracted close-range shotgun engagements vs. squads of zombies and other hell-mooks as well as the first of what will turn out to be a repeating motif for Thomas's TEUTiC maps in the form of a conspicuously overstuffed offmap monster group (the dudes beyond the aforementioned staircase). It's not particularly advanced stuff given the confined nature of the level construction, but it is definitely bloody, notably moreso than anything in the set prior, and so reads fairly well as a result of that. However, the constant repetition of this same general playstyle (shotgunning through arterial clots of inept mooks) does come to be something of an issue for the set as a whole, as we'll see moving on.
  10. Hell, I quite like taking "Doom lore" seriously, myself, and I'll often make up some kind of story for WADs that don't really have one. This is predicated on the fact that I can selectively stop caring/thinking about it when I need to suddenly engage more of my limited brainpower to navigate around and shoot things and do other stuff generally involved in not dying a horrible death, which, let's not kid ourselves here, is really at the heart of this game, whether you buy more into the (somewhat revisionistic) modern design angle which prioritizes constant complex movement and arcade-style action or to the 'original' design angle which hinges on the sheer immersiveness of the simulation. Doom's minimalistic lore/diegesis is minimalist precisely because this is what serves the game best; it's imaginatively novel (if unapologetically schlocky) diegetic flavor when the proceedings allow space for it, and never gets in the way or trips over itself when you're in the thick of the action; just suggestive enough to intrigue folks who get a charge out of this sort of thing (like myself), and unobtrusive enough to never bog down the game experience of folks who are chiefly interested in moving and shooting. Part of what makes it fit so beautifully with the world and gameplay wrought by the engine is precisely because it's so vague and open-ended, which is a practical consideration as much as an artistic one. In an era before 3D action game engines allowed for very credible depictions of genuinely 'true-to-life' spaces, let alone for purely cinematic elements like cutscenes and the like, there was little scope for deeply nuanced plot/character arcs or things of that nature, and so Doom and its notable predecessors and many games that followed them naturally tend to treat story/narrative mainly as a frame for the action rather than as a scene-by-scene script for what actually happens during moment-to-moment gameplay. In other words, for games like this, the real 'story' is more often told wordlessly through the setting and, for the best of them (such as Doom), through the level design; it's a story of mood, atmosphere, and location where most of the actual plot points have already occurred before the game even begins, rather than one of character development or a linearly unfolding traditional narrative. Both of the BTSX WADs we've seen so far exemplify this quality beautifully (IMO); their text scrawls read more like vaguely prophetic ruminations of some world-weary beat poet about what has been and will perhaps be, adding a layer to the general mood of portentous melancholy rather than being a dry recounting of specific events. Most of the actual story is told through the maps themselves, either in relatively straightforward ways ala the shipwreck coda that closes E1 or the gradual journey towards and eventual arrival at the titular Tower in E2, which wordlessly both tells the story of the downfall of a once great civilization (perhaps several of them in a repeating cycle of tragedy?) and frames the action by suggesting that history is going to repeat itself again on Earth through the UAC's hubris unless you, the protag, find the strength to see your hero's journey through to the end. The rub is that this kind of approach to world-building tends to lose its capacity to immerse and intrigue the more the true 'objective facts' of the situation or any given location are expressly spelled out in front of the player. I reckon there's not a damn thing wrong with taking this stuff seriously per se, and to again use BTSX as an example, I reckon I wouldn't like it as much as I do if it made a point of being goofy and self-effacing in its presentation (folks fixating on its quirky mapnames are rather missing the forest for the trees in this regard, methinks); but getting hung up on stuff like minor holes or gaps in the plot which seem to betoken some mundane stretch of exposition to resolve them does seem rather odd to me, as there are other genres of media far more suited to satisfying that particular itch than a first person shooter with its roots in the 90s.
  11. Difficult for me to relate to this one, I've played with 0 gamma correction for the entirety of my time with the game, and I think I can count the number of times I've found a map dark to the point where it was negatively impacting playability in a really active way on my fingers. Almost all of these instances were maps that were designed for or assumed the use of GL rendering, too, come to think of it, so in at least some of them that experience may have arisen from my being too ignorant or inattentive to select the correct lighting model. I've definitely had the experience of dark maps being temporarily unplayable due to screen glare from outside light filtering into the room with the computer in the wrong way, of course, but I've usually just combated that by doing something else until conditions were more favorable. Turning up gamma correction to address stuff like this is something I'm generally not willing to do, simply because I dislike how bleached/washed-out it makes everything look in comparison.
  12. Yeah, in theory, I think my ideal mapset would be a megaWAD of megamaps (or one where the smallest maps are more like "medium" in size, let's say), with the dreamy assumption that they'd all be "good", of course, whatever that means. A few such full-length WADs that are mostly full of big/long maps do exist, of course, and while I've got generally positive feelings about a number of them they all do tend to suffer to a greater or lesser degree from periodic repetitiveness or maps where it feels like there's really not much going on, which I suppose is a good incidental argument in favor of long sets that mix bigger maps with shorter and more focused/controlled ones as pacers or interludes. By contrast, outside of certain types of gimmick/concept or the special touch of particular designers (more than one of which I've been privileged to know!), mapsets where the whole set consists of short maps as a matter of design spec usually seem a bit wanting in some way to me, though I can usually recognize/respect a well-made WAD in that pattern when I see one. I think pritch touched on this nicely, one thing I really like in a longer set is a real sense of dramatic arc/escalation, away from smaller/more focused maps with straightforward themes towards more expansive and ambitious levels with more fanciful locales, though I'm not really invested in the notion that the endgame setting always needs to be Hell per se (or that the midgame setting needs to be a city/sci-fi x Hell mashup, or that the early game setting needs to be techbase/earth). All that aside, I'm also very fond of huge one-off maps, which precisely by dint of being one-time visits can have a certain immersive snapshot quality to them that is quite different from but equally as enjoyable as a well-conducted sense of progression/journey over the course of a longer mapset. It's also perhaps easier by design to take a sort of "kitchen sink" approach vis-a-vis pacing and encounter design and have it read naturally in the context of one big single map, I suspect, which can make for very memorable experiences in the right hands. Handled poorly you can of course easily end up with something that reads like an intractable morass of yardwork where the sheer amount of content turns something which might otherwise be merely mediocre into something actively torturous--something like "Citadel on the Edge of Eternity" from the first CChest being an infamous example, let's say--but many of my fondest Doom experiences, past and present, have come in huge maps wrought by skilled hands. I guess I'd also say that even "bad" megamaps are often more interesting to me than merely 'competent' or unassuming short maps, in the sense that I appreciate being able to remember them for more than a day after playing, but I reckon there's probably an argument to be made that 10 minutes of pleasant (if forgettable) play are time better spent than 90 minutes of janky, ultimately unfulfilling faffing about in Imagination Land, which leave a memory of mild trauma if nothing else.
  13. E2M6 -- Damned Bastards - 100% Kills / 100% Secrets Aha! An early example of a map robbed of much its character (or divested of most of its obnoxious parts, depending on your point of view) by being played as part of a continuous run, opening from a clean slate with that rarest of ideas, a dedicated chainsaw start. Up until after obtaining the red key, you'll pick up a full load of shells but have no weapon to use them in, and clips for the pistol are as rare as health packs. To top it off, the aforementioned chainsaw is hidden in a secret (albeit an easy one), and so it's quite possible that a first-time player will end up with nothing but an empty gun, a set of brass knuckles, and foul language to defend themselves with before reaching that point, particularly if they make the mistake of trying to shoot the imps on ledges (or the harassers in the cage in the start yard) along the way. Even with the aid of the saw, by 90s standards the early action is still notably demanding, requiring melee battle vs. mixed groups in mid-sized rooms where it's easy to be flanked, duels vs. one or more cacodemons, and a decidedly sardonic slow-crusher setup guarding the retreat from the red key's nook where the psychological pressure of a teleport destination directly atop some damage-floor is used to goad you into making an ill-considered move. Make it through all this, and the map turns out to be decidedly bi-polar, with almost all pressure evaporating in an eyeblink the moment you finally pick up a shotgun off of a corpse (or the chaingun from a secret compartment, available at basically the same point in map progression); this isn't merely a function of enhanced DPS on your part, almost all of the real traps suddenly stop around that point as well. Weird. Other weapons and powerups become available in rapid succession as the map nears its end, situating the level in an unusual spot relative to the ages-old pistol-start vs. continuous dichotomy and giving it a slight feel of anticlimax. The mapstart is really cool while it lasts, though, and I was glad to experience it like this, since this WAD is old enough that the last time I played it was very likely long enough ago that I myself hadn't yet picked up the habit of pistol-starting. In terms of construction and progression, it's actually a significantly less nuanced map than some of its predecessors, where backtracking is more obvious (although IIRC there's a little loop in the layout that shortcuts you back to the yellow doors right after you get the yellow key) and room structures are mostly pretty simple, save for the occasional small cosmetic flourish, ala the recessed corpse-cages flanking the downflight of stairs near the blue armor secret. Most interesting quirk here is that you get a choice of two red doors right after you get the red key, with the 'correct' one being the earlier of the two (or, the one that's farther away from you at the time), which sort of rewards you for having the intuition to test the 'obvious' progression path a little. Go into the nearer door and you have the strange pumping pistons + imp-cage room, which isn't a huge deal, but definitely not at all ideal (and potentially dangerous with the point-blank specter-trap in the cage) if you're still packing nothing but a chainsaw (or an empty pistol and your fists). E2M7 -- Dehumanization - 100% Kills / 81% Secrets (I think?) Only actually found one secret here IIRC, for the record, but it apparently contained 17-18 sectors all flagged as such. I admit to breathing a little sigh of relief there, myself. :D This map has loads and loads of personality, no denying. While I often find myself taking something of an advocacy position where novel/ambitious ideas seem to slightly outpace smoothness in implementation, I have to admit that I didn't find this very enjoyable, either. Interesting certainly, but enjoyable, no. Best part is again almost certainly the mapstart, which is disorienting and harrying in the right sort of way, but as you leave the first yard and its kaleidoscopic wooden silo-thing behind and head deeper into the map, things rapidly take a turn for the worse, as every minor piece of traversal seems to require either standing around waiting for an auto-cycling lift to let you pass or slamming a switch to open a timed door, or both of these at once on at least a couple of occasions. It's seldom unclear what to actually do in these situations (though there is perhaps a bit of light trial and error regarding the four-switch battery near the red skull), so navigation feels less like unraveling a riddle than it does like trying to commute through a particularly badly-designed roundabout/merge-lane combo at rush hour, something like that. This unpleasantness in moment-to-moment traversal also negatively impacts the sense of progression, even though the actual route/layout uses a carefully linked up hub/wing design very similar to the one that worked at least fairly well in E2M3, and the double-back to actually get the red key (which I assume you can probably 'grab' early if you know that's a thing?) is perhaps the most flatly opaque piece of progression in an otherwise nicely conducted set. Given the cramped environments and the aforementioned unpleasantness of movement, combat generally feels like it's there mostly for the sake of checking a box on a clipboard as well, with the notable exception of the big silly nested zombie ambush near the exit, a much-welcome spark of levity. Also of note are some representational environmental details to add flavor to the otherwise mostly nondescript knot of stuffy neutral-lit wooden hallways--a couple of prison cells with a firing squad setup in the yard outside, a gallows, a bona fide PWAD chapel (which I totally didn't remember was actually in this set when I mentioned it earlier, to whit!), the like. Charming, but not charming enough to carry the experience, IMO. E2M8 -- Baphomet's Throne - 100% Kills (presumably) / 100% Secrets A very period-suited conclusion, basically a fight that's more about ceremony or spectacle than about actual threat or challenge, though of course one should bear in mind that the cyberdemon was generally a lot more intrinsically intimidating to a lot more folks in those days. I seem to recall killing him through one of the windows on an early playthrough (the prospect of which frankly makes me cringe a little today), though he really doesn't need much coaxing to get him to come out and play, where the ceremonial game of rocket-toss can easily proceed more or less unhindered. Note also another very Wolf3D-style bossmap cache of healing and weapons in a simple secret on the perimeter, containing one of the most classic of classic rewards, a blursphere you're better off never using. I actually seem to remember the castle itself being more impressive than it actually is--of being bigger and using more custom assets--but I probably have it confused with some other similar marble castle from the same general time period. Nevertheless, it's certainly an acceptable riff on E2M8, sounding very similar notes but doing its best to humbly put its own spin on the tune.
  14. I usually try to behave myself until someone literally asks for it, I swear.
  15. I do indeed reckon there's enough variety in gameplay design possible in Doom--even with just the base game and base engine, at that--to allow for enough crazy, sudden difficulty spikes or viciously idiosyncratic design patterns (such as maps designed to make themselves physically unfinishable without ever communicating this to the player, as per your example) that no model or 'code of conduct' or whatever we might wish to call it could ever truly have a prescriptive answer for all possible situations. Speaking practically, though, these types of outliers are and have been vanishingly rare in community history, with only a small handful of creators every generation or so making it their conspicuous mission to be 'transgressive' for the sake of it (and most of these have very small/short careers, even those who against odds eventually end up being embraced by a wider audience). Again, this is particularly true for that type of map you used in example above, where the level geometry/machinery itself is designed to render reaching an exit all but impossible (though these are not entirely unheard of, for sure). That being said, the vast majority of actual real-world comments/complaints about "unfairness" or "imbalance" or, more colloquially, "bullshit" in design are made about maps that fall much more readily somewhere within the realm of relative normalcy, provided we agree that the 20+ year old game at this point naturally has a somewhat broader spectrum of 'normalcy' than most, at any rate. For most types of maps made throughout the community's history--from whimsical 90s dungeons to histrionically overtuned 201x gauntlet maps, and almost everything in between--I think the general rule of thumb that falling back on cheat codes as a matter of habit will markedly stunt your growth (and thus, your capacity to participate fully in some greater or lesser portion of the community's output) holds true, whether the particular stumbling block in any given case pertains to fire and movement, resource management and meta-management (i.e. learning to break yourself of toxic/self-impeding save habits, to mention another specific example appearing in the thread thus far), navigational sense, puzzle-solving, or any combination of the above. To another point, I don't agree that there is no value in repetition, that being killed once near the end of a map (even if we take it as granted that the thing that killed us was 'objectively' bullshit and completely unforeseeable) and thus having to replay from some earlier point completely devalues all game content that has to be retraversed in order to reach the point of death. Knowing on an intellectual/strategic level how to solve a given scenario is not the same thing as physically being able to actually reliably pull off the necessary maneuvers for victory, and by the same token, possessing more than an adequate level of dexterity/skill in controlling the game needed to defeat a given scenario is not the same thing as having the situational awareness or analytical ability needed to properly 'read' said scenario and consequently arrive at a workable plan for victory (and this is also why I conclude that you either don't learn or at least learn less when you opt to cheat, to whit). Of course, when we talk about highly seasoned players, simply for the sake of argument/investigation we will naturally tend to think about how they might reasonably act in some of these interesting outlying hypothetical scenarios, where neither twitch skill nor analytical ability are necessarily good metrics for likelihood of success outside of the grossest sort of trial-and-error investigation. But, bearing in mind that we're talking about players who feel like they have no choice but to cheat in order to make progress as a periodic matter of habit, I think it's a reasonable surmise that we are likely talking about players who could benefit from tighter movement control, sharper aiming and dodging ability, better overall situational awareness, and the like. These are abilities gained through practice, pure and simple; whether that practice is undertaken in the context of a somewhat known scenario (i.e. replaying a map that you just died at the end of) or in some hypothetical new scenario that you're instantly shunted off towards as soon as you've failed the previous one is largely irrelevant to the point, I think, but I reckon both have value in that regard. The extension of this idea is, naturally, that one carries forward experiential gains through time and draws from them in meeting future challenges, i.e. you ideally apply what you learned in the map you played yesterday to the new, different map you're playing today. This is of course anything but a neat and tidy 1:1 'curricular' process, given the wide variety of scenarios possible in Doom, but if one adopts a general program of meeting the vast variety of challenges possible in the game with an eye towards flexibility, adaptability, and perhaps the occasional spot of lateral thinking, over time these accrued experiences will naturally tend to crystallize into play habits or skills making it more likely that a given player will able to engage with a wider variety of mapping styles without having to endure the experience of feeling utterly befuddled and alienated without any idea of how to proceed or acclimate to what they're presented with. Again, there's always a limit to what a loose code like this can grant you--the most demanding maps (those within the realm of relative normalcy, I mean) tend to require at least some measure of practice from even the very best players, for instance--but for the vast majority of players looking for some sort of long-term engagement with the game, I think it still holds true, even to some degree as regards the kind of outlier maps touched upon above. We tend to think of these as very hard to read, but to at least some extent this is probably because we've seen so few of them, yeah? Make something like that a proper (sub)-genre with enough iteration on its core design tropes, and eventually I guarantee you it will develop some following, some subset of players who can navigate new iterations on it with markedly less trouble than many of the rest of us precisely because they have paid their dues, gotten in their practice, and internalized some significant part of the design logic of the particular style. Truly extreme outlier scenarios that fully repel/defeat this analysis in pretty much every way are still quite possible within the confines of the basic engine, I'd freely admit--I'm imagining something like a vast, visually featureless concrete room mined with a chaotic morass of invisible linedefs that immediately/permanently seal the exit at the opposite end of the space as soon as you cross one, something like that--but, while perhaps interesting from some sort of 'art vs. game' or human psychology standpoints, these are nebulous enough to not really be applicable to a discourse about why/how 99.99999% of us enjoy and choose to engage with the game, I reckon, or why most players who habitually cheat choose to do so.