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Demon of the Well

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  1. Demon of the Well

    The DWmegawad Club plays: Disjunction & Scythe X & Counterattack

    That's kind of what I mean, though--imagine how good it could be (especially as a contrast piece for the more 'usual' Mek style) if it were something actually taken seriously! Map 03 -- Aegritudo Things take a decided turn for the macabre here, as the Counterattackguy finds himself in a warped analogue to the processing/shipping facility, something like a huge plant for channeling or.....refining?.....hundreds of thousands of gallons of festering blood, a twisted industrial nightmare equal parts Satanic dieselpunk and opulent Byzantine palace. It is in the second half of the game that the set's stylistic commitment to stock assets really shines, as it's in these later hellscapes that Mechadon has assembled some really striking/original texture schemes, showing that his signature architecture works equally well with more complicated color/material schemes as with the more safe/standard tu-tone military/techbase look of the earlier levels. This one most readily reminded me of "Dreaming Garden" from Sunder (another set largely defined by strong texture schemes married to imposing architecture, incidentally), but its bloodstained industrial trappings and heavy contrast between the gloomy, fetid inner chambers and pale-litten marbled outer yards readily afford it a feel of its own. Of the main maps, this one sports the smallest monstercount at 'only' 460 or so, and while it's similar in size and expanse to "Phlogiston" or the facility proper in "Aggilus", it's more focused than either of them, leaning less on an endless array of exploration/route possibilities and more on a few complex core chambers or areas which will be traversed several different times (often at different height levels), perhaps best exemplified by the central 'smelting' chamber where the yellow skull key is kept. This is an area that you can initially see (and shoot) into from an upper floor while exploring early on, one that you actually enter for the first via a transformative booby-trap that it's very difficult to see coming, and one used for at least three different discrete fights at different times, culminating in the surprise appearance of an overseer cyberdemon ala Romero's classic E4M6, which by this point the room strikingly resembles (and not by accident, I'd wager). To compliment this comparatively tighter focus, the thing balance is a mite quirky, starting you out with berserk fist and.....a plasma rifle, which you won't actually see much ammo for for some time but which basically acts as an early 'get out of jail free' card for a tight spot. Other basic armaments and ammo are delivered largely via zombie kills rather than from placed pickups (though there is evidently an early chaingun tucked away in an alcove which I've somehow managed to miss every time playing the map), and moreso than in previous levels it behooves you to spread out your weapon usage to avoid running critically low on any particular ammo resource. As with m02, secrets are both very tricky and very powerful, and once again can have a huge impact on your options as you get stuck in to the meat of the level, ala the secret BFG. Again, it's debatable as to whether these finds swing the balance of power too much in your favor in later encounters (by which I mean to suggest there's room for said encounters to be bloodier/meaner rather than that the player should be kept with limited arsenal), though this is mitigated somewhat by the aforementioned early dearth of cell ammo, and because the "OP" potential is strictly confined to avid secret-hunters in this case I think this doesn't dampen proceedings in the way that some of the bonus stuff from m02 arguably does. Also of note here is the blue key casement, which transforms first into the "blue key yard" and then again into the "blue key park" before opening entirely for one last hurrah. Apart from how clever this unfolding of the area is (at first you'll be a few feet away from the key without even realizing it), it's also the first example of a large/protracted battle designed to play out in phases (and which the daring/perceptive can optionally hasten into a much larger, single encounter), an element which will be of some significant prominence in the next two maps. Map 04 -- Maeror Now THIS is quite the undertaking, the largest map by far in a set of large maps. Depicting something like a massive palatial tomb or funerary complex, its wide avenues, looming arches, shadowy arcades, and seemingly endless concatenation of basements and crypts and sub-basements present a tour at once arrestingly stately and decidedly morbid in aspect. Brief glimpses of a barren, lifeless landscape of endless fire and brimstone beyond the walls can be had on rare occasions, but there is no escape, only the possibility of a deeper descent. Scored by a BGM track that most players will recognize from the legendary "Misri Halek" (Alien Vendetta m20), and despite teeming with ghoulish creatures, the overall mood of the place is one of isolation and a certain loneliness, steeped in a gauze of countless eternities. As you can probably tell, I'm absolutely smitten with the theme here--while I enjoy a smoldering hellscape or a glowering gothic cathredral-volcano-castle as much as the next Doomer, I'm more fascinated by less traditional but no less grim depictions of Doom-Hell, particularly those with a bit of poignancy to them, and this map certainly delivers that in spades. The gravity of the map's imposing size may not immediately dawn on you unless you happen to try the flesh-switch in front of you at mapstart: it's a six-key switch, meaning that very little of the map's considerable expanse is optional, in contrast to the earlier levels. While it's still possible to skip or miss a few of the connecting areas between major locations, for the most part you'll be taking the full tour. The tradeoff is that "Maeror" is more truly non-linear than any of the other maps, and allows you almost entirely free reign of where to go and when from the very outset, the only caveat being that each of the three skull keys can only be acquired after you've obtained the keycard of the same color (so, BK gates the sadistic BSK vile-torture box, RK gates the exhilarating RSK 'dragonfly' chamber, etc.). Even with this restriction, then, there are many many different ways in which the map can be played; the incidental fights outside of the key setpieces tend to vary widely in their own right depending on which avenue of approach you use when you happen to come upon them, and weapon progression can vary widely as well, which can make a significant impact on both the incidental action and the setpiece fights. On some level, the bigger marquee fights later on in progression do potentially suffer from the same issue as some of their brethren earlier in the set (i.e. they are wont to be less intense than the player's arsenal could potentially warrant), but in the majority of cases this is heavily predicated on your order of play, and there will always be some fights you must do without the BFG to use as a crutch, which IMO is a much more 'complete' handling of the challenge of balancing item distribution with player choice than any of the earlier maps quite managed. And there are no shortage of nicely staged fights here. Most of the keys feature their own dedicated setpiece or arena, many of which are heavily transformative and organically integrated with the initial state of the architecture/layout in some really clever ways. Without fail, the fights tied to the keys are all quite bloody, and several cross decisively over into what could fairly be called 'slaughter' territory, though use of this term invites certain qualification in this case. To be clear, many of these fights use proper slaughter mechanics or principles--decisive area denial, pressure to juggle multiple fronts of encroachment simultaneously, shaping and execution of heavily patterned movement, etc.--and bodycounts sufficient to make them function, but they are generally very approachable in overall effect, by dint of using tons of softbodies rather than more advanced creatures to comprise much of the bulk of the hordes, and by generally supplying a veritable surplus of healing and ammo, asking only that the player keep moving and fighting (as opposed to turtling or camping or hiding) to stay comfortably in the thick of things. The result, pretty much wholesale, is a selection of big bloody fights that are assuredly great from a spectacle standpoint and worthy of a penultimate epic such as this, though in certain cases I feel that the overall placement is too restrained, irrespective of the non-linear balance, most notably the yellow skull fight, which reads as markedly underpopulated for the space provided even if you rush it to release all stages at once, and kind of wanting even then. I'm inclined to interpret this less as a desire not to make things too challenging for accessibility's sake and more as a way of hedging bets to eliminate possible 'grind' at more extreme iterations of the level's non-linear possibilities, but whatever the case it's hard to entirely escape the impression that things are underpitched. Fortunately, in most of the similar cases, ala the final gloom-shrouded death-vault, rushing the fight is a more effective redress (for those who may not know, "rushing" generally means triggering as many available stages of a multi-stage battle to occur simultaneously as possible, which is theoretically both more efficient and exciting provided you can survive the furor), and on the whole the action remains a suitably visceral companion to one of the most entrancing locales seen in a Doom map lo these past few years. Map 05 -- Dolor If "spectacle" was a watchword for the later battles in "Maeror", here in the finale it's the name of the game from beginning to end, where what was foreshadowed comes to pass and where Hell mounts its final frenzied offensive. "Dolor" is at root a sequence of three major fights, each bigger than the last, taking place in some truly spectacular terrain representing some of the most striking use of stock textures I've seen in 20+ years of Dooming. The non-linear/optionality aspects of previous levels are here discarded in favor of a more curated crescendo of action setpieces (though there's a lot of freedom of approach within two of the three); fine by me, as I always say you generally want the finale of a significant journey to have some kind of wow-factor differentiating it from all that came before, and the grandiose brawling here serves that end well. Or, if I'm honest, it can. Rehelekretep is absolutely correct in observing that all three of these battles are neatly segmented (generally by switches) into several distinct phases, and if these phases are methodically fought one at a time one after the other they generally represent several orders of magnitude of decrease in intensity (and also fun) than they do if the savvy/thrill-seeking player tries to get more of a ruckus stirred up.....or would if the player were afforded less of a security blanket of control over the situation to begin with, which IMO would have been more ideal in this case. The issue is similar in all three arenas, but most pronounced in the second and third--the great majority of the resources (to say nothing of the available movement space) are available from the outset in both cases, and generally vastly outpace the pressure/encroachment potential of any single wave or phase. While it's possible that a weak player might somehow manage to exhaust/squander enough slack in this early freedom as to make the later waves truly oppressive (cowardly wasting the V-sphere in the third arena far too early or the like), for most players I think this is likely to be a little TOO consistently manageable and thus tiptoe dangerously close to the edge of repetitiousness (the various waves tend to be more or less symmetrical in nature, though there are some surprise developments to mix things up at certain points as well), and in hindsight I might've suggested something like halving the switchpresses/wavecounts in each particular instance to facilitate more consistently roiling combat-cauldrons. All of that being said, fortunately it's pretty simple to rush the encounters (simple enough that I'm sure this was a fully intended part of the design compromise) to full completion in each case (you can even get some cinematic 'seal the Flux Gate' kills in the second arena if you're fast/aggressive enough), and played this way they are a pack of delightful slaughter-riots, still pretty accessible given the piles of resources but not to be taken lightly for their potential to overwhelm you through sheer force of numbers, either--played this way, I can confidently say that here at least the hordes will surely be worthy of your arsenal. Not content to settle for scale of spectacle alone, as a topper Mechadon has included a new custom creature to lead the final wave of defense, a pair of disquietingly fast and agile levitating brain-demons, boasting scads of HP and some withering rapid-fire Afrit-style attacks. Even played at a full rush, it's telling that these things are formidable enough to usually be among the last few breathing beings in the final arena, and so make a suitable climactic foe in that regard. The level, and the mapset, ends with your explosive decommissioning of the demonic power conduit channeling the power of the pulsar (the massive, otherworldly superstructure of the final arena), shunting you first into what seems certain doom and then into.......Vela Pax? Dare I to dream....? Yes, yes I do, but it's a dream for some other night. In the meantime, Counterattack's finale leaves a lasting impression with its gorgeous battlefields, armies of hellspawn, and picture of the heroism of yet another lone, indomitable warrior, a suitable conclusion to a quintessentially Doom-y adventure.
  2. Demon of the Well

    The DWmegawad Club plays: Disjunction & Scythe X & Counterattack

    Hello all, long time no see. Glad to see you've all been enjoying the three sets featured this month, feels like the first time Disjunction is really seeing a lot of people actually play the thing, certainly deserved. Also must echo some of the bittersweet reception of Scythe X as well, not only because it's unfinished (and probably eternally so, let's not kid ourselves) but because in some ways one doesn't have to look so hard to see at least part of *why* it might be unfinished--stretched a bit thin in places, like the well was starting to run just a bit dry by that point, no? However, the real reason I'm here is Counterattack, which was not only one of the best mapsets of last year but also an immediate personal favorite of the past several years, and one I felt compelled to play again given the excuse, and also to say a "few" words about. Map 01 -- Aggilus Opening in suitably grand spectacle with a view of a huge warp-gate in the depths of some nameless UAC bunker (dimensional gates and the machinery that powers them being a recurring motif in the set's very traditional Doom-story), this is not your typical m01, and in some ways is not what we might've previously called a typical Mechadon map. Prior to Counterattack, I think it's fair to say that the great majority of Mechadon's public releases (mostly solo maps appearing as parts of community or team projects) were all broadly similar in style--similar scale, similar layout and progression tropes, similar pacing and very similar combat; always couched in his singular architectural sensibility, of course, but very much a matter of 'variations on a theme.' I don't mean this to sound untowardly backhanded, mind, as it was a formula consistently executed well, and one I'd probably have been content to continue to play new iterations of indefinitely; I bring it up because it highlights a big part of what makes Counterattack so damned good, showcasing as it does an author's ability to expand his signature style to include more variety, additional layers and nuances without compromising on any of that style's core strengths or character. The action proper kicks off with a bang, or rather with several of them, complimented by the interminable pitter-patter of gobbets of flesh and viscera raining down over the rocky landscape. The memorable rockets-n'-barrels start here is a prime example of the mapset's strides in adding depth and freshness to the otherwise familiar, and sets a tone that persists for the majority of the set: your enemies are legion, but you're quite formidable to say the least, and have countless options at your disposal for beating them back. While the RL being the primary weapon for the game's very first spate of combat is unusual in itself, it's notable that the action here is not heavily choreographed or remotely setpiece-y in nature, instead being more framed as free exploration/free play in a topographically complex area, very much in keeping with what we might think of as more traditional early-game fare. So, while the set opens with a lot of flashy, bloody over-the-top action, it also establishes early that these incredibly rich/complex maps are primarily meant to be explored and navigated at your leisure, presenting not only countless routes to take through them but countless ways of battling the creatures infesting them as well. The Aggilus complex itself, evidently primarily a shipping/receiving/logistics station, is outwardly not the most imposing structure one could imagine, more squat and loosely sprawling than towering and imposing, but its concrete and steel walls hide one of the most complex and intricately woven layouts in a set full of them. Parallel corridors and throughways wind and bend at many minor gradations of height, and countless windows, grates, terraces and guard booths ensure that almost no matter where you are in the complex, no matter how you got there or where you've been before, there's always the opportunity for some kind of view into (and potential exchange with) some other sector, offering opportunities to snipe or be sniped or to develop a plan of action in advance. Changing from one 'track' to another in these often narrow/winding confines can initially seem a bit of a to-do, especially in the early going when you don't know your way around, but don't get stuck thinking too conventionally--often you can switch on the fly by hopping through windows or with a leap from one overlook to another. Progression in this level is designed so that there is no 'wrong way', and no matter your itinerary you can make meaningful progress and theoretically eliminate the need to wander through previously cleared areas almost entirely, though I think it's fair to say that the layout is complex to a point that most players (including myself on my earlier playthroughs) will not realistically be able to tell the necessary from the unnecessary or indeed even glean that they have the degree of choice in itinerary that they actually do in the first place. Fortunately, all of the content is suitably entertaining, ranging from intense, almost comically bloody close-range gunbattles with hordes of zombies in the interiors to looser, splashier action ala the opener vs. waves of encroaching foes in the floodplains surrounding the base, with an optional sidequest to an alternate dimension (foreshadowing the final areas of the game) to net you the SSG and some other goodies (which may end up being largely irrelevant if you don't hit upon this progression thread early enough, granted) for the particularly keen explorer. So, while the optionality aspect of the design is ironically probably more opaque/less clearly communicated here than in later levels, I think most players will able to forgive this based on what a good time ripping and tearing through the base and its scads of defender mooks is, by whatever route and whatever means they happen to do this. Map 02 -- Phlogiston This was the entry to the Vinesauce contest which spawned the larger project, which I don't think I was actively aware of until this most recent playthrough (when I finally found a certain secret). For the most part it blends in naturally enough with the rest of the maps, but the contrasts with m01 are immediately apparent: where m01 was squat and sprawling and intricate, here the architecture is much more vertically-oriented and imposing, with towering silos looming over the core campus, long, cold oversized halls, and badly-lit meandering stairways and bulky pneumatic lifts connecting the different levels, enough to send any OSHA inspector into nervous fits. While "Aggilus" sported a relatively clean corporate/tech look, save for the tan masonry and some piping/trim "Phlogiston" conspicuously uses textures from OG Doom almost exclusively, giving it a dour, unfeeling military-industrial look to suit its grimier/slimier theme. While the ineffable "bigness" and striking aspect of the architecture naturally conceal the fact, the complex itself is actually smaller and simpler (though not necessarily more compact) than that of m01, though in some respect this is because there are no extended grounds to explore this time (and indeed, it would appear certain pains have been taken to avoid ever raising the question of just what lies beyond the walls of the complex), and its 600+ monsters come in spurts and surges vs. the more constant stream of fodder offered in the previous map. Like m01 before it, a goodly chunk of the content here is optional, though which chunk precisely that happens to be depends on the player. The overall route is far less potentially divergent--the red keycard always comes first, and then you need either the blue keycard or the yellow keycard (or both) to open the way to the red skull, which in turn seals off the exit. The paths to the blue and yellow keycards actually cover a lot of the same terrain and skipping one is basically a matter of skipping whatever ambush is tied to it (the YK one being the nastier of the two IMO), though, so again it's likely many players will get both before returning to the keycard hub seen earlier on. Doing so has an added benefit in that possessing all three cards nets you a BFG 9000 to be used in the strange crusher-fight for the RSK; on the one hand I think it's praiseworthy that the designs in these levels unfailingly offer extra layers, perks, or other content for the true explorer/completionist, but on the other the BFG here is probably overkill, trivializing the RSK fight while needing relatively little investment to acquire. This is one of the set's most persistent issues (perk equipment allowing you to easily steamroll major fights), but in most of the following cases it's justified or requires a lot more investment or planning (or luck), whereas here it chiefly serves to take a lot of the thrilling bite out of what is otherwise a creative setpiece fight, wherein the challenges of making a tense fight in spacious architecture are met by weaponizing the architecture itself. This relatively streamlined/simplified main progression is an interesting contrast to the hidden stuff, especially as regards the level's overall balance. Played straight, there's more of a flavor of 'survival' gameplay here than in other levels--enemies are fewer and spread out a bit more (outside of the characteristic bloody closet-traps and the like), but your own weapon progression is vastly more conventional than in m01 (shotgun and chaingun dominate, with heavier weapons appearing mostly in the last third or so), and nowhere else in the mapset is healing and armor in shorter supply, emphasizing tactical sniping and defensive/retreat tactics to a greater degree. The many secrets, however, are quite cleverly hidden--diabolically-placed impact-switches are one recurring concept--and several of them chain together into potentially massive gains in power for the player, particularly early on, underscoring the set's emphasis on exploration in a more traditional way (note also the presence of not one but *two* secret BFGs, which I think further casts the 3-key bonus as excessive). Map 31 -- Desiderium This map has no set place in the running order despite being a perfectly natural inclusion to all appearances (a sacrifice to the traditional/hardcoded secret level placement in Doom II, presumably), and so I'm somewhat arbitrarily placing it here. I would venture that it would fit best as the second map (after Aggilus) in thematic terms, and as the third map (after Aggilus and then Phlogiston) in terms of gameplay progression, and so here it is. A very "Doom II" toxin-processing base in aspect (though its convoluted core of access routes is again very KDiTD, I suppose), in some ways this is the most 'by the book' Mekmap in the set, combining the intricate, nuanced interior constructions of m01 with the grander exterior architecture of m02 and a slow/steady ramping combat progression that opens with skirmishing against squads of zombies and packs of imps and gradually tilts towards much heavier onslaughts in the lategoing, culminating in a comparatively small/brief yet nevertheless frantic --slaughter-- fight (gasp) at the final five-point gate. Progression in the interior segments is a complex web of if/then route choices, and while this area is relatively small in spatial terms I don't think I've ever had two playthroughs be quite alike here. Differences range from small (i.e. which door clear out a given room from) to the more pronounced, as in the case this time where I ended up finding my way into the guts of the facility ductwork and cargo conveyance system, using it to ambush a pair of viles and a bunch of other minions from their blindside long before I would've been able to enter that room normally. The later/exterior segments eventually converge and neck down into a series of linear brawls, hordes of demons charging you through a series of breach-points as you climb up the outer skirts of the complex towards the gate chamber just offsite, itself the host of a structural/combat motif that will gain more prominence in later levels. While this is perhaps the most linear/on-rails sequence in the game (and a fairly long one, as if we interpret it as beginning in the poison canal it occupies about half of the map), it's convincingly delivered by virtue of the palpably greater intensity of the battles and so is a welcome change of progression in that regard. However, it's worth noting that a certain sequence of exploration allows you to skip the whole thing--finding the red keycard misplaced somewhere in the ductwork allows access to the disused storage warehouse west of the facility, where the secret exit can be found amidst a not altogether normal Narnia of crates. I'm not entirely clear on just how much of the main progression this allows you to pass over, or how much the hunt for the red card is its own distinct thing largely separate from main progression, but at very least it renders the entire poison canal and everything connected to it (including the normal exit) completely optional. So, while "Desiderium" shares the same design goals of many of its setmates of rewarding exploration and bolstering replayability, in no other map in the set is this commitment more dramatically in evidence, an odd quirk driven by its otherwise janky/suspect placement in slot 31, away from everything else. Map 32 -- Microland I don't have any really serious comments about this one, but for all of its silly delivery it's easily one of the hardest and most calculated or 'choreographed' challenges in the game, and shows promise for future Mek projects which may at some point call on him to be more wholesale dastardly in encounter design (I salivate at the prospect!) :)
  3. Demon of the Well

    The DWIronman League dies to: The Darkening E1 & E2

    http://www.mediafire.com/file/xr6dxa88ih0j2nd/Darken_DotW_Iron.zip/file Survived, imagine that. Feels like forever since that's happened. Final time for E1 is 22:13, final time for E2 is 1:07:10. Category 2, of course. The original The Darkening is both old/famous enough that even a speedrun Luddite such as myself knows a lot of its big skips (though I had never heard of the exploit with the YK in m06 that RjY speaks of before now, quite ingenious, that), and despite piles and piles of hitscanners and the like I reckon it's a fairly accessible WAD for going quickly, since most of the layouts are compact and mostly intuitive, m05 perhaps excepted (which is one of the better maps, mind, just not as intuitive perhaps). A mixed bag even by the standards of its own time, it has some lovely maps (m04 and m05 are my personal favorites) and a few which are rather weak I think (m03, m07, m08), fitting in with the team CP flavor of yore neatly, reading like a smallscale 'classic' WAD ala the Moris or the like which if nothing else should be credited for keeping the bloodshed up across all 11 of its levels, elegant or otherwise. E2 is quite a different beast, more strictly balanced and vastly more complex/intricate than its older brother. Survival aside, navigation is a challenge here, especially for blind players I should imagine, since as Krypto rightly remarks the styling of all of these levels is persistently 'realistic' and commits to the grungy, gritty, and visually homogeneous theme of rimworld squalor unrepentantly, meaning that both parts of levels and whole levels themselves can tend to blur into one another. There is, however, method to the madness, and almost all of these levels flow in a really elegant, intricate way once you've become oriented. Criss-crossing paths and shortcuts to minimize backtracking abound; the rub is that the designs almost never billboard-signpost these, so seeing where and what they are relies on your own sense of in-world spatial realization (or just brute familiarity!). There is real charm in this, I think, a certain sense of satisfaction in navigating well in this kind of setting versus a more modern tendency for layouts to flow openly/overtly (where the evident flow is part of the aesthetic itself, you might say), though granted it's certainly not something I'd want to confront all the time! I think I navigate pretty well in this run, but don't play particularly well otherwise, with some really shameful near-death bumbling in the m10/11 stretch and an almost universal incompetency for anything which could be loosely termed "platforming." Nevertheless, glad to have finally managed to survive again.
  4. Demon of the Well

    The DWIronman League dies to: Rush

    Rush Ironman, aka Roll the Bones This is a baaaaaaddd performance for me. Died on map 05 in a "I have reverted to my skill level in 1993" moment while vastly overarmed and charged up with health/armor. Kill me now. Protip, kids: to beat the cyberdemon, simply shoot it until it dies. Category is 2, as per normal; I played this once the week it hit the Archive, haven't touched it since. Probably wouldn't have made it much farther anyway, in truth, as after m06 there's a long stretch of the WAD that I remember literally nothing about up until m12 (which is the one almost everyone remembers, of course).
  5. Demon of the Well

    The DWIronman League dies to: Double Impact

    I <3 Double Impact E1M8 got me, same as lots of other folks. Almost had it, but got greedy/impatient with the last switch, should've kited those cyberdemons away one last time first. Very, very, very slow, too, probably 3 hours or more--went to the secret level, did a lot of secret-hunting in general, etc. etc. Cautionary tale about doing stuff like that (esp. in long sets that are only really hard at the end) as far as the rankings go (you're welcome 'Fredo!), for sure, but I love this set waaaaaaaayyyy too much to try to 'speedrun' it (to the extent that "DotW trying to play fast" is not an insult to the institution, ofc), rather than savor it. Plus I probably would've died before the halfway point doing that, of course! Double Impact remains the king of all Phobos episodes; it still has yet to be bested, or even challenged in this regard. Big, sprawling, dark, disorienting (at first), packed to the gills with secrets and diversions, and above all incredibly fucking BLOODY, this mapset captures, distills, and even magnifies the KDitD essence, encapsulating all of the good things about that episode and expanding on them in a way that is truly timeless. My kingdom for Double Impact E2!
  6. Demon of the Well

    TNT Revilution: Final release now on ID Games!

    Oh, don't be such a stick-in-the-mud, Tourn. That's my job. Congratulations Revilution team. Thinking on it, I might go so far as to say that Revilution has perhaps had such a relatively wide appeal because it's filling a particular niche that's not as populated as common sense might assume it to be--it's a modernized take on an old-fashioned approach to the traditional megaWAD, reminiscent of your Memento Moris and Requiems and the like in an earnestly authentic yet personal way, which has rung more true to many than other WADs which more actively strive for an idealized "Classic" brand. There's a lesson somewhere in there, I'd warrant!
  7. Demon of the Well

    Is Split-Screen Multiplayer Dying?

    I'm tempted to say I'd miss it, but in reality that's probably not the case, given circumstances. Nostalgia, I guess.
  8. Demon of the Well

    The DWmegawad Club plays: Super Mayhem 17

    The third and so far final time I had played the map, he got pinned/immobilized against one of the outer posts and was being eaten by a couple of pinkies, -cl 9 and all that. I rescued him, because that's just the kind of guy I am, but it's certainly not inconceivable he won't always make it to the end considering how many actors and thus AI/RNG possibilities there are in that fight. His big HP pool should be enough to carry him most of the time even if he doesn't attack much, seems like, but of course there's weirdness that can happen in the engine that there's no real accounting for.
  9. Demon of the Well

    The DWmegawad Club plays: Super Mayhem 17

    Map 26 -- Bowser in the Black Abyss - 96% Kills / 0% Secrets - FDA A fine climax to the set, this, not merely designated by being the set's hardest map (which is debatable in itself, perhaps), but something clearly designed to be the big finale, final bossfight with Bowser and all. Most welcome, and not to be taken for granted in a mapset created after this particular type of CP model (i.e. theoretically open to all/run in a condensed timespan), though the Mayhem series has generally been pretty good about trying to go the extra mile regarding this particular aspect of arrangement, I suppose. The author combo here is quite tantalizing in prospect, as Marcaek and rdwpa have, at least going by their past release histories, what I would describe as markedly different approaches (esp. to balance and encounter design), and so I was expecting something rather unusual. TBH, this is not what this is, and rdwpa's account of who did what--i.e. most of the structure and layout being of Marcaek's design, with most of the actual placement and fights being of his own making--explains the final result pretty clearly. Writ large, this absolutely plays like an rdwpa map in his heretofore established style (though probably both slightly easier than average, as he says, and also a little more concise/condensed/focused in terms of progression), and with little hint of what I've seen from Marcaek in the past, though hounds for analytic detail will likely notice the pronounced differences in architectural style and such versus rd's own. So, the map's not the chimerical creation one might've surmised and hoped for, it's true, but what it actually is functions well regardless, and is consistently fun and exciting enough that it's difficult to feel too disappointed (though I would still absolutely love to see a more organic collab in future!). Setpiece fights are the order of the day, each different, each effectively toeing the line between invigorating empowerment and oppressiveness, usually offsetting heavy pressure from multiple simultaneous sources with fairly generous supplies of healing and ammo. While the map generally wears its heart on its sleeve as to where its intentions lie, versus m11 which casually used tight setpiece fights in the context of a more adventure-oriented map, I would say that it feels significantly fleshed-out in framing versus the simplistic m21, thus more compelling. The arrangement of the early fights in particular has a lot of efficient nuance--unlike in m21, where there is a set 'starter kit' which precedes all of the action, here which of the first two fights the player goes to first (RL fight or RK fight) has a major impact on how the next fight plays, and the possibility of nicking items out of the RL fight's ante-area to use in the RK fight instead adds further layers. Additionally, there's also the secret/optional BFG fight to consider, which is easily the map's nastiest fight as far as packing the most lethality into the smallest amount of time/space goes, but pays off with dividends that have a major impact on the player's options in later battles. I somehow missed this in the FDA, in lazy contravention of my own rule about carefully checking behind/around you at mapstart (same deal with the shotgun secret in m20, come to mention it), and so my workhorses for the map were RL and plasma gun. I found it was balanced beautifully for this, whereas having the BFG + foreknowledge significantly tilts odds in the player's favor later on, making proceedings more of a showfloor for ruthless efficiency. This level of balance in this style of map is rarely achieved, and is laudable. While there is essentially zero incidental combat and little genuine exploration/traversal element involved in map progression, the map avoids feeling entirely like a disassociated sequence of arenas by dint of stylish use of quiet time and 'void space' in gameplay terms--the silent fortress veneer, Bowser sitting in shadows in the otherwise empty, massive throneroom before you are subjected to the penultimate ordeal, etc--allowing the setting itself to carry some of the load, and establishing a more palpable sense of buildup through the earlier fights to the finale. My favorite of the fights, incidentally, was the big scrappy final scuffle in the lava-floored throneroom with Bowser and an eruption of mercenaries from Below. While not as brutally efficient as a couple of the earlier fights, it absolutely has the greatest sense of shit coming unglued and there not being a whole lot you can do about it other than to hang on for the ride, balancing a heavy aspect of incidental damage and a sort of implicit (but by no means mandatory) complication to stay off of the lava floor with a ton of healing and other items drip-fed in over the course of the fight to keep you in the fight as long as you don't mentally turtle up. Bowser himself is no slouch as a classic tank, as expected--mountains of HP with a powerful but tactically straightforward attack--though I admit I was both surprised and pleased to find that he and I were the last two things standing at the end, considering all that been flung into the fight just prior. His behavior/routine seems familiar--Adolf Hitler from Xaser's map in D2iNO, maybe?--but feels a natural fit for the scenario, quite amusing to see his flame-breath bulldozing through groups of zombies and imps and the like. There are quibbles, mainly technical, but they're very minor. I too noticed and was somewhat disapproving of the red hell sky which shows through instead of the abyss in places; it appears consistently enough in 'interior' spaces to read as a possible deliberate design choice, but looks jarring enough to just as credibly read as an oversight. I thought that the final fight would've felt slightly glossier if the height difference between the lava floor and the raised stone floor structure radiating out from the center had been halved or so, as well--as it stands larger corpses (cacos, mancs, groups of pinkies, etc.) can collect on the raised part and make it surprisingly difficult to see clearly what's going on across the room (and shit flying at you), which doesn't seem intentional. Also a couple of mechanical hiccups--in the FDA you'll see the visual error around the megashroom in the center of the throneroom (which I've not been able to replicate), and in the RK fight three out of three times I've played the teleport-flashes on either side of the green armor have behaved irregularly, once both lasting until the nobles appeared, once with only the left lasting until the nobles appeared, and the right lasting until body-blocked by the mancubus in the FDA. Excellent closer with a suitably imposing look/feel, together with a couple of the other maps almost gives me hope for the viability of the Mario aesthetic. Almost. ;) Map 27 -- Congratulations! - FDA, for completeness' sake. Outro/bookend map intended to separate Mayhem17 from the palette-molested stock maps remaining in slots 28-30. As aforesaid, Mayhem has often been more conscientious about these niceties than similar CPs, though in some respect this is perhaps necessitated by its willingness to settle for a final mapcount other than "32+ at any cost." I admit I was secretly hoping for some kind of easter egg with the IoS face in m30, but no dice. :)
  10. Demon of the Well

    The DWIronman League dies to: 50 Monsters

    Here's me, not such hot shit this time. Died on m11, like lots of other folks. Feels bad, man....took a double-hit from the last two viles (if the initial tease accounts for all of 'em, anyway), who had positioned themselves in a really nasty checkmate position, and began their attacks nearly simultaneously. I tried to dodge both with a wild cut into the hallway, but misjudged it--hall wasn't long enough to get me out of view of either of them. Wise play in that case would've been to go behind the iron partition and accept a hit from just one of them, hoping to come back from there. On the upside, had relatively little trouble with either m33 (Sunder 01 tribute yay!) or m35 (YOU BORKE THE RULES), despite certain slapstick errors. All of this is a rare true category 1, for me--never played this before, never seen it streamed, etc. All I knew about it was that all of the maps supposedly had 50 monsters, that it had cybruisers in it somewhere, and that it supposedly leans heavily on really nasty gotcha traps in its later parts (which, having played further afterwards, seems to be true to some extent). Good work from AD_79 and his occasional guests keeping variety high under the project constraints, though in most cases you can tell these are older maps by less experienced authors (like looking at Jenesis vs. something Jimmy made the last couple of years, for example), particularly where they are homages to other maps/authors. Makes me want to see more recent stuff from all of these chaps!
  11. Demon of the Well

    The DWmegawad Club plays: Super Mayhem 17

    Map 25 -- Bastille Bowser - 102% Kills / 50% Secrets - FDA While not particularly long in terms of runtime, I reckon this is one of the physically largest/tallest maps I've seen Breezeep create, good to see him branching out in that regard. A relatively straightlaced take on the Mario texture pack, depicted here is part of an imposing grey castle-town sort of place, all ramparts and battlements and beetling streets, very vertically inclined with only a couple of yards and one recessed pool area to expand in lateral chunks. Like a few of the other maps, it opts for plain fullbright lighting over large stretches of its real estate and so looks a mite static (to me) in places, but the texture scheme, dominated by subdued greys, browns, and blues as it as, offsets this--no eyestrain here to speak of, aesthetic quibbles/bugs aside. :) Interior spaces do use some reduced lighting, and there's been a lot of attention paid to detailed architecture and scenery which sits outside of the actual playable space, so the overall impression is of a full, developed presentation which has made certain choices, as opposed to something like m09, which sort of looked like it lacked lighting because it ran up against a due date (whether this is or is not actually the case). I think the highly stylized "sky", such as it is, does this map no favors, but on the other hand the music track's great, one of the many renditions of "Bloody Tears" from the Castlevania series--Castlevania, now there's a Mayhem theme I could get behind! The map's enjoyable, being both vertically inclined and fairly roomy in most places it feels good to move around in (with a few designed flying leaps to reach items/armor to highlight this), and avoids any obvious pitfalls re: pacing or fight design or such. Considering the mapslot, however, to some degree it's perhaps inevitable that there is an overriding impression of how relatively easy the level is--stone castle theme aside, it could've easily fit somewhere inside of the first 10 maps or so--which some say may see as slightly odd given that it's the penultimate map proper and is designed for straightforward action rather than anything highly conceptual (read: it doesn't really fit the Limbo Model). Speaking for myself, I don't think there's anything wrong with having an easier map in E3 (or a genuinely hard map in E1, for that matter) in the service of contrast, and so for the most part don't see this an issue, but at the same time I can't entirely ignore that, again/still, I played quite badly and yet still managed to survive, and so in that regard I do think like the heat needed to be turned up a little in places. The fight for the RK in particular seemed like it needed to be bigger. As an aside, while I only found a couple of them in the first playthrough, the secrets in this map are fun to locate, doing a good job of playing off of how nice it feels to move/poke around in the layout. In balance terms, though, they don't really fit naturally (i.e. there's really no call for a BFG here, secret or otherwise), which underscores that the level could've been even more enjoyable with a bit more violence/intensity, IMO. Also, I am formally changing my vote to +++ 99 Ways/Playground/Talosian Incident.
  12. Demon of the Well

    The DWmegawad Club plays: Super Mayhem 17

    Map 23 -- Down the Wrong Pipe - 104% Kills / 50% Secrets - FDA As mentioned earlier on, I reckon this is the stronger of TMD's two maps in this edition of Mayhem. While more compact and not as structurally striking/airy as its sibling in slot 19, it uses a similar style of monster/placement in a much more concerted way in a more focused space, as a result avoiding that feeling of haphazardness in its gameplay and offering a surprisingly visceral combat experience early on, contrasted with a more coherent Kaizo-Mario-style sequence in its second half. That first area is an abstract Doom-y sort of place comprised of three linked halls with a dead-end chamber at one end, somewhat unattractively textured (at this point I'm sure everyone knows to take my carping about the whole Mario aesthetic with 'several' grains of salt, surely) and modest in aspect but well suited to the CQC scrapping which takes place there, nonetheless. Teleporting monsters and other tricks, ala the three blue doors which all fly open in concert as soon as you fit the key to one of them, keep some measure of heat on by constantly siccing mid/upper-tier beasties on you from your flanks. Prime material for SSG wetwork, this, saddled to an effectively deceptive ammo balance which can leave you feeling well-stocked at one moment and tugging nervously at your collar the next, especially if the vile happens to get out of hand. The tight-but-not-quite-cramped confines behoove some greasy dodges and perhaps some more involved infight shenanigans, which carry the action fairly well until the second half. The second half, situated Down what was evidently The Wrong Pipe, is realistically significantly more deliberate/cautious in pace for most players (don't want to fall off into black, in Mushroom Kingdom rules that generally spells death) but doesn't sacrifice much intensity, playing on nerves and a dirty trick or two to see you slip up and slip off. In truth, the platforming aspect itself here is very light/simple, but navigating it while the enemy firepower generally occupies superior positions is easier said than done. As with the earlier half, there's a sense of a lot of different action happening in stages in quite a small space, which is welcome, though on the downside the segment seemed to end in somewhat untidy way, requiring an inelegant reverse backtrack at the end at a point where it still seems like the room might have some development remaining. Nevertheless, a quality "deep cut" sort of map for the set. Map 24 -- Bowser's Daddy Dungeon - 100% Kills / 50% Secrets - FDA I have been known to criticize speedmaps in particular for often seeming like stream-of-thought collections of geometry and textures with no real gameplay ideas to fill them out and give them purpose. Rottking's map here struck me as something of the contrary case, a collection of short and largely unrelated gameplay ideas he had in his head that he decided to put down all together at once, resulting in a strange underground tower-mansion-castle-garden-playroom-zoo sort of place whose capricious and largely unplaceable form seems dictated by function, rather than the other way around. The overall impression is, aesthetic/concourse sensibilities aside, something like a whimsical old 90s romp. In the good way, I mean. :) Overall flow, connection, and progression are all a bit clunky here, at least in purely pragmatic 'flow' terms, and certain bits seem to exist for no real reason other than to express a random idea (i.e. the sideswapping coin hallways, the blue armor room, etc.) largely unrelated to the main goals of the level (which are seldom clear), but this is something the map owns, and for the most part manages to make work--it's sort of Petersenesque in its way, though the size/time constraints for maps in the project mean that you never end up too far off course. Combat comes in irregular spurts of brief intensity intermingled with lighter incidental fair and a sort of sniper-dominated central space to keep less battle-suited parts of the map from feeling entirely empty, but while the action has enough violence to satisfy and a traditional thing balance (i.e. RL is the Big Gun here) tight enough to keep one alert and engaged, fighting's not really the central point, wandering around and traversing the weird, vertically-inclined space and looking at the idea exhibitions is, and fittingly enough the level's "combat climax" didn't really work for me--the arch-vile is presumably supposed to warp around the four pipes, I guess (?), but he just stayed in place and got blasted when I visited. This is also one of the nicest looking maps in the pack that still seems to embrace the Mario look rather than ignoring or trying to subvert it, along with m04 and m08, IMO--it's shadowy and looks like a hangout for Bad Guys for sure, but is a very far cry from grim. Texture/color combos are smooth and sensible as opposed to foaming-at-the-mouth bright and cheery, and there's an incongruity (or what I perceive as incongruity, as a Mario outsider) to some of the asset use that has a peculiar charm, ala the ship-rigging/net stuff that cordons off the big central tower from the long, squat entry halls. The greater part of the map also possesses a striking sense of height and scale to it, always something that appeals. Not really 'frontman' material, I suppose, but as with m20 an enjoyable map that does its own thing and feels like it's coming from a rather different headspace design-wise than many of the other maps.
  13. Demon of the Well

    The DWmegawad Club plays: Super Mayhem 17

    Map 21 -- Rainbow Road - 103% Kills / No secrets - FDA, not horrible beyond words but still pretty bad IIRC. A very straightforward level fixated on pure combat, which I was not able to appreciate as much as it probably deserves, again simply because looking at it hurt my eyes--the static, lo-fi rainbow shingling (sort of looks like the main structural material is a bunch of giant Rubik's cubes, I thought) with lots of overlay from layers of platform borders and glowing star props and other trim/trappings densely packed into every vista gave me a mild headache in short order, and I recall needing to take a break afterwards, even though the map is very short and to-the-point. Doubly a shame in this case, since setting up these many neon-rimmed crystal sectors and getting everything in this style of presentation to work right sans unsightly visual anomalies is surely no small amount of work. That aside, as aforesaid the level is very straightforward; likely the most conceptually simple map in the set--you drop in, immediately are shuttled off to a handful of brief, focused fights (each of which can be handily won in a matter of moments, for a good/practiced player), and then it's over. The fights themselves are fine, all requiring a fast response and posing some measure of immediate, serious danger, but all quickly resolved with the piles of powerful armament supplied in a handful of large doses over the course of progression. I did not play well (again) but didn't have a lot of trouble clearing the map, so I reckon it's balanced on the generous/empowering side and not really a tall ask provided one doesn't panic (and isn't defeated by arrays of bright, happy colors, like moi) at the first sign of trouble. Biggest criticism is probably again a matter of degree/missed potential rather than a case of this or that specific element not working right or not playing well. You can get the three keys in any order, for example, but since they're all functionally self-contained setpieces of similar general style and similar difficulty which have no initial or emergent interaction with one another (monsters only enter the playing field of each zone just as you enter, and are entirely absent otherwise), this setup adds next to nothing to progression beyond a faint illusion of CYOA (which is not without value, granted), and underlines that the way the whole level is laid out and presented is primarily in service of the visual concept/homage rather than the gameplay/progression, not unlike m06 in that regard, I suppose. For those for whom this referential angle hits home, this is surely not an issue (and in this case I imagine many will enjoy the striking visuals wholly independent of the homage, as well); for dayblind Mario philistines like myself, my overriding impression is, once again, that the level's solid enough in play but seems underdeveloped in some senses. Map 22 -- Chocolate Starfish Islands - 97% Kills / No secrets - FDA An intuitive pairing for m21, Benjogami's map is also comprised of a short sequence of focused setpiece challenges, though as has generally been his wont these have a marked flavor of the experimental to them. As was the case with m12 and much of the rest of the ice-themed minisode from earlier on, it's no surprise that "CSI" has been controversial as it too makes pointed use of a number of non-typical mapping functionalities--ice, slowing terrain, active conveyors in the playspace, the like--but for my part I felt that it generally handled these more deftly than any of them (partly a consequence of its pronounced brevity, granted). The two ice-based challenges, which open the map and will probably immediately make it or break it for most players, are illustrative in this regard. Obviously, the ice here works just the same as in the wintry block of maps prior, and is no easier to move around on or fight on. The key difference, IMO, is that here the gameplay is purpose-built to highlight the ice and its impacts on movement, and tuned accordingly, rather than treating the ice as a sort of thematic environmental modifier atop otherwise conventional action. The miniature platforming challenge to reach the first pipe has the twofold purpose of really honing in on how to most efficiently maneuver Doomguy on the ice (don't fight it too much, drift into turns ahead of time, etc.) and also wryly ensuring with a sort of cheerful gallows wit that pistol-starters at least will play fair (you deserve what you get if you feel clever/cheeky and try to pistol That Revenant, precisely what Obsidian didn't do for those two viles in his map :) ). This segues nicely into the underground ice-island setpiece, which tests those movement skills in a sort of impromptu "bumper cars" scenario, where again the solution is to embrace the slipperiness and to read the situation in a more outside-the-box way (i.e. leave as many pinkies alive as you can, as they make superb mobile/incidental shields), which IMO is often the best sort of use for largely impractical niche effects ala the Boom-ice. I do think it's fair criticism that the map is perhaps slightly too insistently heavy-handed in some regards, i.e. the slowing water on the vile/knights/imps island, which is more of an incidental annoyance ala map 12, or indeed the extra punishment of the damaging water at the base of the level also being slowing, just to rub it in presumably, but the encounter concepts are interesting and fleshed-out enough to excuse this in this case, I think. As aforesaid, the map's quite short, and Benjo has had the good sense to end it with a weird but satisfyingly violent little climax on the river-island, going out on a high/cathartic/empowering note as a contrast to the marked little to-do which is the map's earlier stages. Also key to the map's success, I think, is that while it's certainly a handful it also has a sort of affable sense of humor about it which meshes naturally with the somewhat 'piquant' gameplay rather than seeming forced, probably best personified by That Revenant, who will inevitably vex you to the end and thus reads like a much more credible Mario-style Doom antagonist than almost anything seen prior, matched perhaps only by Xaser's ghostly Twins. Good stuff here, Benjo, though I'd be a liar if I said I wasn't at least a little relieved you don't plan on making ice a Big Thing in your future mapping. :)
  14. Demon of the Well

    The DWmegawad Club plays: Super Mayhem 17

    Map 20 -- Transformation Palace - 118% Kills / 33% Secrets - FDA, horrible beyond words. This is an interesting one. While its action is more or less straightforward and it doesn't possess any particular conceptual gimmick to its gameplay (the ever-ascending path through the level and its occasional bits of building terrain are more what I would call themes than 'gimmicks'), it has a peculiar feel to it quite different from anything else in the WAD, perhaps a function of being as unapologetically big/tall as it is. Gloomy, too, I must say, which surely also has something to do with how different it feels--there are only a couple of other maps in the set that take a similar sort of stonefaced approach to the Mario theme (even Xaser's nominally dark/spooky "Ziegenhaus" had a definite aura of mordant cheer about it)--this being something I personally find refreshing/appealing, perhaps endearing it to me on some irrational level. On that note, I want to say that I did definitely enjoy playing this, for the most part, even if that doesn't come through very well in the god-awful FDA. The order of the day is big fights--apart from the opening half-dozen monsters or so, everything here is a big fight involving more or less exclusively heavier monsters--but these are made to seem smaller, somehow, being dwarfed in scale by the environment itself as they tend to be. Not only are the playspaces large, but there's never any attempt made to keep you from retreating to or seeking cover in a previously cleared area, or indeed from using the space in pretty much any other way you might please, and so the overall impression is of something more slack and catch-as-catch can than the challenge-oriented affair that a description of its content on paper might suggest. This lack of any real leash on the player means that those unable to feel alive outside of the context of optimally tuned pressure-generation engines will probably find it chronically dysfunctional in its openness, and at the same time there are parts of it laborious enough to try the patience of most players regardless of their personal style (including me); several have commented on the somewhat obnoxious super shroom at the end of one of the long rows of pipes (I suspect the stylish/practiced way to get it is to land on a pipe with forward momentum from a running drop, but in practice I found it less hassle to just shoot for an SR50 with no runup), and the monster placement in the context of the transforming southern room is......well, let's just say it's "something else." Okay, let's also say that it should've been cut. Yet, where the action works, I think it works well, and found that to be the case more often than not. The FDA is horribly ugly/messy, and while part of that is just direct fallout from crappy play on my part, that it got so messy/complicated as often as it did speaks to the thought of the monster use in the context of such a relatively unwieldy space (i.e. very, very tall, theoretically very open visually, etc.). The big final fight's a good example. That you are allowed to simply run away from this back to the opening of the area flies brazenly in the face of most currently in-vogue conventional wisdom concerning such encounters, but I think this openness adds interesting layers to the fight. So yeah, you can run away and thus avoid death pretty easily, but....what then? In the average (blind) playthrough you then face a situation where your cowardice (or intelligence, as some may prefer...!) sees you having to get creative and take a huge risk to get back into the area so you can leave the level, thus your initial retreat has interesting emergent consequences rather than just being a crutch tactic that breaks the fight. Finding out about the backpack secret only after that first playthrough, I find I starkly disagree with those who mocked its somewhat odd placement/timing in the level--this is really quite clever, I thought, because finding that secret allows you to scoop up double the ammo before the last big fight starts, and thus makes the retreat/camping strategy significantly more powerful (yet not so powerful to render the whole thing null, again). And of course, the fight still works fine if you don't run away at all, wherein tactical infighting and awareness in an initially chaotic situation and all of the usual watchwords/virtues of modern action apply. It's not anywhere near highly tuned or conceptually vicious enough to be legendary, granted, but it is flexible in a robust way, and that's rare/valuable, something which both sides of the oft-posed challenge/casual dichotomy often miss. I wouldn't argue that the level's pretty loose in how frames its action, but I reckon it's also a lot smarter than it's been given credit for, and is probably one of the more replayable maps in the set as a result. It has a sort of simplified Resurgence flavor to it--big action in big places that's more often than not content to let you make your own way (and occasionally outsmart yourself and dig your own grave)--generally a welcome thing, in my book. But then, there's also that southern room....so maybe I'm blowing hot air and it's all an accident? A happy one, if so, and I suppose that's the main thing. :)
  15. Demon of the Well

    The DWmegawad Club plays: Super Mayhem 17

    Map 19 -- Your Princess is in Another Fort, Asshole - 104% Kills / 66% Secrets - FDA Another of the "obviously a speedmap" entries, I haven't been able to think of a good way to summarize my impressions without sounding as though I'm damning it with faint praise....which almost says enough in its own right, I suppose. While playing I was suitably entertained, for sure, the action is more or less constant and the thing balance is enjoyably skewed towards the RL (my favorite weapon), and the structure of the level itself has a number of interesting qualities. But, at the end of the day, there's also a marked sense that the layout and the thing/placement were conceived largely independently of one another, i.e. the shapes and scale and such were mapped out impromptu, and then action/thing placement which more or less "makes sense" was added to it afterwards, rather than any particular fight or other event being conceived in tandem with any particular physical feature of the map or its progression. It's not a boring map, by any means, but definitely one where I got the impression of much missed/unexplored potential. rdwpa has a more in-depth look at the level's general feel/timbre earlier in the thread, and the upshot of it (and something it would've doubtlessly taken me even longer to say) is that proceedings are generally directionless. While the influx of different monsters at different points fills out the runtime fairly well without getting sloggy or anything, the map itself undergoes changes that seem like they should point towards some kind of encounter structure that never develops in any real way, and so in some sense the space ends up feeling underutilized, especially considering that so much of the action naturally takes place in the big central chamber. For example, at some point lava fills the inner space, and barriers rise up to block what were initially its two northerly groundbound exits--well after there is any real reason for the player to ever go down there (I noticed because I insisted on futzing around with the fairly superfluous cyberdemon who eventually appears where the red key once sat). In placement terms, a few flyers are scattered about in the initial fracas, but never appear again, despite the environment seemingly being very suited to them. Similarly, a fresh crop of monsters appears at the south of the map when the player first butts up against the yellow door, to fire from afar, but because there's nothing else going on on your side of the map this is not relevant, whereas when you go back to the south to deal with them there is no complimentary complication from the north, which would seem to make more sense. The side areas of the southern upper level with the lava floor, apparently conceptually tied to a single radsuit (which I didn't recognize as a radsuit, not being highly attuned to Mario as I am--I thought it was a statue or something until I walked into it), never really pan out into anything either. Is it assumed the player will want to camp in there at some point, lending the suit value? Nothing ever really develops to make this seem like a logical course of action. Is it to prevent a couple of hits of damage from flicking the yellow switch? If so, why the damage floor at all? etc. etc. etc. Visually the map also has a certain air of unfinishedness to it, I thought. Again, the structure itself is generally pretty cool, but the absence of lighting effects in the main space makes its slate grey/cherry-red texture scheme look very flat and washed out indeed. Stock Doom II assets also appear here (for the first time since m10's marbface on the temple awning, IIRC?), used variously as trim/detail textures ('carpet', etc.) and as baldfacedly as traditional Doom switchplates. I thought that this read badly--sort of uncanny valley, in an unappealing way--and contributed to the impression of something finished in haste. I feel I've spent a lot of words here probably being nastier to the map than it deserves, but that's the thing with a map like this--all things considered it plays just fine, but there's that marked sense of underachievement that's tough for me to overlook, wondering what might've been if its author had had more time for it (ala his other map in the set, which seems more developed and is ultimately better, IMO). ****** Oh, yes, largely meaningless at this point, I suspect, but every eventual landslide has to start somewhere, I suppose: +++ The Alfonzone