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TheOrganGrinder

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About TheOrganGrinder

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  1. For some reason I had it in my head that 1) arch-viles couldn't revive gibbed enemies, only those that left non-gibbed "intact" corpses, and 2) arch-viles revived enemies at one-half their standard health.
  2. TheOrganGrinder

    The DWmegawad Club plays: Doom the Way id Did (& Ultimate DTWID!)

    E4M8: An End to Darkness I'm kind of torn on how I ought to approach and assess this one, because I'm not as familiar with John Anderson's body of work as I feel I ought to be, and that makes it difficult for me to judge how well or otherwise this map is emulating Anderson's particular style; but on the other hand, assessing it purely as a could-have-been-Ultimate Doom map, focusing first on foremost on whether it credibly presents a map that might have been included in the Ultimate Doom of the next reality down and to the left, feels like it's ignoring many of the level's own qualities and its status as a heartfelt tribute map to a departed member of the Doom mapping community. To get that part out of the way first, then: I think I would have liked this better as a standalone map than I do as part of Ultimate Doom the Way id Did, because my ongoing mental refrain as I was playing through this was "id didn't, id wouldn't have." Two Spider Masterminds, squaring off against each other amidst a scene of columns and rotundas and neoclassical grandeur? Three Cyberdemons taking part in the pitched battle that follows, in addition to the one that guards the elevated walkways earlier in the map? The size, the scale, the complexity of it all? It's fun, it's engaging, it's ambitious, but it also feels very much like the product of the post-id era of map design, determined to exceed rather than emulate the scope and the limitations of Thy Flesh Consumed and its period. And maybe that's deliberate, maybe that was part of the guidelines laid down for this project and for this level, maybe this map is an answer to the question "what if id, what if John Anderson, but bigger, meaner, more?" It succeeds in answering that question more than it succeeds as a plausible alternate E4M8, as an Unto the Cruel that never was, in my opinion. Setting that aside, taking this map on its own merits? Well, like I said, it's fun, it's engaging, it's ambitious; from the start, the player is offered a choice of intimidatingly anonymous hallways which twist and crook their way past eerily silent and empty reservoirs and offering tantalising glimpses of distant structures and future battlefields before delivering the player to a variety of possible challenges. I took the top-left path first, which in hindsight may not have been the easiest route or the smartest choice, but that's something that I like about Doom maps of this sort, the freedom to make mistakes on a large scale and to learn from them by adjusting your overall strategy and making different choices on your next attempt, or to do things "wrong" but come out the other end victorious anyway, albeit bloodied and depleted by your experiences. Whatever route you take, it'll be a little while before you run into monsters of any sort, giving you at least a few moments to appreciate the scale of the infernal complex into which you've just been deposited as the WAD's final and most ferocious challenge, the sense of vastness and desolation which pervades it... at least until you're a little ways in, because when things start to heat up in earnest, it's a while before they stop. The Spider Masterminds can be baited into tearing strips out of each other, the Cyberdemons that follow are as much a danger to their own minions as they are to you, but even with the benefits of infighting it's still a bigger and more fierce succession of encounters than anything you're likely to find in the IWADs. Once Hell's mightiest have been laid low, there's little further opposition between the player and the exit, which plays out as a sombre procession over invisible bridges, looking out across the carnage you've just wrought before taking one last plunge into a surreal, inverted rotunda structure; a fitting end to the level, to the episode, and to this project as a whole.
  3. TheOrganGrinder

    The DWmegawad Club plays: Doom the Way id Did (& Ultimate DTWID!)

    Right, I should get my thoughts on these last couple of levels written up before the thread falls too far off the top of the forum... E4M7: Hand of the Heathen I'll admit, had the text file not indicated that this map was designed with the intent of emulating John Anderson's style, my immediate point of comparison would have been to E4M2 and E4M3 of this WAD, that I originally and erroneously described as being designed in emulation of Shawn Green's style before realising upon further reference to the text file that they were instead crafted in the oeuvre of American McGee. Maybe it's the texturing choices, with STONE3 appearing as a dominant material in all three maps, or maybe it's the tendency toward strictly orthogonal architecture throughout, but overall my first impression of Hand of the Heathen is of a bigger, meaner cousin to Vile Affections and Earth, Blood and Fire. The sepulchral qualities of those earlier maps are likewise present here, although the abundant lava, occasional signs warning of poison, and extensive metalwork suggest an industrial setting as much as a tomb. It's an austere and sombre environment to the point of feeling oppressive, although there are moments of grandeur that suggest the whole place is the work of some more potent creative mind than its barren cloisters might otherwise indicate; the lavishly illuminated stair from which the player is encouraged to take a leap of faith into the lava below, the colossal columns between which the player must pass as they open the way to the blue key, and the marble battlement with its invisible bridge preceding the exit room, are all memorable scenes that pop magnificently from the generally understated backdrop of the rest of the level. Mostly the fabric of the map is functional, getting out of the way and letting the player engage with the business of surviving the map author's cruel and capricious streak; this is a mean level, but mostly in a fun way, with the Cyberdemon guarding the yellow key coming across as both emblematic of the author's approach to gameplay and, in tone, as something like a punchline to a joke. I suspect he'll gib many players at least once, and whether that prompts frustration or laughter will depend on how closely your sense of humour fits that of the level designer. For my part, I called that trap bullshit in the heat of the moment, but I couldn't keep the grin off my face as I said it.
  4. TheOrganGrinder

    The DWmegawad Club plays: Doom the Way id Did (& Ultimate DTWID!)

    E4M5: Doctrines of Devils I'm not sure quite what to make of this one. The overall structure is a bit disjointed, with progression breaking down into neatly defined, self-contained challenges like the individual obstacles along an assault course; no single subzone of the map really flows into or interacts with the adjacent areas, and with the central yard turning into damaging blood as soon as the player goes grabbing at the health and ammunition in the middle, the player is further disincentivised from freely exploring rather than identifying the next challenge ahead of them and tackling that and only that. On Ultraviolence the only radiation suits that would make backtracking across the map's damaging floors a less painful experience are tucked away in a secret-flagged area that opens up at the same time, using the same triggering line, as the exit room; they're clearly there just to make going back in search of missed secrets and supplies less of a painful hassle, and I appreciate their inclusion in that context, but the general lack of other ways to mitigate the "health tax" you're compelled to pay to one degree or another as you dash to the next objective as briskly as possible is just one more indicator that this is a map that wants to be overcome rather than explored. That's not a value judgment, it's a difference in kind rather than a case of good gameplay structure vs. bad, but I'm not sure this level is done any favours by following on from E4M4 which also wants you to move at a lively hustle across the damaging floors that make up a significant chunk of its footprint - although at least your objectives and progression are more clearly communicated here. Aesthetically what I'm most reminded of here is City of Corpses from earlier this month; it's got that same sense of different areas being the work of different mappers, with the central spine of the map and maybe half of the challenge areas feeling a bit underworked next to the more lavish and dramatic eastern and western wings. That's mirrored somewhat in the pacing and atmosphere, with fiendish traps and dangerous combat encounters alternating with stretches that don't feel deliberately low-tempo so much as undercooked. There's a good, engaging map here, but it feels like it's been padded out to meet some arbitrary requirement of size, running time, or monster count, and the result is less than the sum of its part, the slow stretches detracting from rather than contrasting with and enhancing the more fleshed-out and carefully tuned parts of the level. E4M6: Molten Gods Now this one is much more my jam, playing out like a mash-up of Perfect Hatred and some of Romero's Doom II maps. Despite the lopsided asymmetry, the constant ascent and descent between platforms and walkways and mezzanines, the disorienting shifts from wide-open areas to cramped tunnels that twist back on themselves, there's a clear logic to progression here, with well-communicated objectives and good lines of sight throughout this modestly-sized tangle of wood, metal, and green masonry all perched atop a sinkhole of scorching magma; the impression I get is of a path of progression visualised clearly and plotted simply, before being twisted and torn up to add a generous dash of fiendish complexity to the proceedings. Those clear lines of sight are put to good use by the Cyberdemon that represents your last serious obstacle before the exit, dominating the map from on high and driving you to find not just the keys that are necessary for progression but also adequate firepower for the task of demolishing this meaty roadblock. I like the fact that, rather than a simple blue door barring the exit, there is instead a blue switch recessed into a little cubby by the door, to make the task of dancing around the Cyberdemon and rushing for the exit that much trickier; of course, even if you manage that, there's a further gate that won't open until the Cyberdemon is dead. It seems the map author here thought of everything! One thing I especially like about the layout is the way the lava tunnel loops around the south end of the map in a fairly continuous fashion, connecting areas that are physically quite separate and offering an early rocket launcher to players who are willing to burn a radiation suit and some ammunition on exploring a path that isn't obviously a necessary part of the map's progression. Plentiful openings make the tunnel's presence apparent, but they're tucked away unobtrusively in dark corners to de-emphasise them and to avoid an errant suggestion that exploring the tunnel is mandatory. Romero's maps in the original IWADs tend to be among those with the strongest sense of being structures as well as levels, and that's a feeling that has been well emulated here, from the atrium to the lava tunnel that connects the southern half of the map together to the separate tower containing the blue key, outside the walls of this demonic fortress or infernal cathedral and suggestive of a larger environment beyond the bounds of this particular structure.
  5. TheOrganGrinder

    The DWmegawad Club plays: Doom the Way id Did (& Ultimate DTWID!)

    Okay, y'know what, you can probably ignore a bunch of what I said about E4M2 and E4M3 because I've just taken another look at the text file and it turns out those maps are intended to emulate the style of American McGee, not Shawn Green. I don't know how I mixed that up as I did refer to the text file as I was writing up my thoughts about those levels. This next level is the one that's supposed to be the Shawn Green map out of the set, hopefully I'll have my head screwed on a bit better from here on out. E4M4: Unclean Spirits So, of all the maps that I've played so far this month, this is the one that leaps out to me most strongly as really not aligning with the stated direction of the project; this doesn't, to me, feel like a level that could credibly have been put together by id's mapping minds even in the era of Thy Flesh Consumed, and while I can't point to a specific PWAD, project, author, or era to which it displays a closer kinship, I can't shake the feeling that the roots and the inspiration of this map point elsewhere. I guess, if I squint, I can see some of the basic shapes and layout elements of E4M8: Unto the Cruel echoed here? But they've been expanded upon and made more intricate, just as the level itself feels bigger, meaner, more developed in its gameplay and more cruel in its intentions than anything that's a part of the IWAD. I'm also left with a sense that this really wants to be a Doom II map, and is chafing uncomfortably against the limitations of Doom's less varied bestiary; here is where an arch-vile would be turned loose to wreak havoc had that particular tool been a permitted part of the level's kit, there is where a perched mancubus would dominate all within its line of sight more convincingly than a Baron of Hell, these monsters really want to be hell knights or revenants or some other mid-tier enemies rather than the somewhat awkward mix of imps and Barons of Hell to which the map finds itself constrained. The setting suggests to me either part of a subverted and corrupted cityscape (again with the feeling of Doom II there) or some curiously metropolitan corner of Hell, in either case a forum or meeting-place half-drowned in lava and so made less readily navigable than its original builders might have intended. Appended to this is a small ruined keep overlooking a lake of boiling blood, where a Spider Mastermind awaits to provide a mid-level shock that contrasts nicely with the level's general reliance on large numbers of imps, shotgun sergeants, and lost souls, in combination with extensive damaging floors, to gradually wear down the player's health. It all felt slightly awkward to me, as though I were repeatedly observing, "yes, that's a Thy Flesh Consumed use of that texture, that's an authentic Thy Flesh Consumed combination of textures, but this doesn't feel like a Thy Flesh Consumed environment;" again there is the sense that the restrictions within which the map must labour are not ones with which it is entirely comfortable or within which it particularly wishes to be bound. I'm also going to put it out there that the particular combination of teleporters and walk-activated triggers here makes it tricky to approach the level constructively as a problem or sequence of problems to be solved; it's clear early on that you need to acquire the blue key to reach the exit, but how you do that, arriving at that solution, feels like it's less demanding of analytical logic than it is patience and trial and error. I didn't really feel as though I was making progress so much as stumbling between triggers and encounters, with the eventual teleport to the blue key feeling less like I'd solved a problem or committed to a course of action and more as though I'd simply run out of other places to go. That's all very subjective and maybe I just wasn't in the right headspace to properly enjoy this level tonight, or maybe it's just engineered toward a style of gameplay that doesn't really speak to me; I'm not going to say it's a bad map, it's too meticulously put-together and to delightful in its capricious cruelty for that, it's just one that doesn't click for me right here and now.
  6. TheOrganGrinder

    The DWmegawad Club plays: Doom the Way id Did (& Ultimate DTWID!)

    E4M9: Terror The level name comes across as a mission statement that this is going to be a bigger, meanier, and scarier version of the original E4M9: Fear, and to be honest I'm not sure that the map is doing itself any favours by setting itself that goal, because I felt at though the map was at its best when it was being asymmetrical, involved, and creative - in many ways, its strengths are the ways in which it is least like its ostensible inspiration. Perhaps the only benefit is gains from emulating Fear specifically is that it does harken back to that specific map rather than invoking the more feel of being a Thy Flesh Consumed level in general, adding to its distinctiveness within the WAD, but I'm not sure that's really a net gain versus the further layer of restrictions under which it has to labour in drawing on one particular level. It's not a bad level, and if you come into it expecting the symmetry and brevity of Fear you'll find that the map has a few twists, turns, and tricks in store for you; rather more of the map's real estate is mandatory for progression this time around, with plenty of variety in its combat encounters and traps to keep you on your toes. I feel that there's a little bit on an illusion of symmetry here, a sense that the map tries to convince its player of a separate-but-equal balance of progression possibilities, in its eastern and western wings, whereas the actual route through the level is a bit more linear than that. The one-time-only secret soul sphere had me wondering if this map might have been the work of the same author of E2M5, and it turns out that is indeed the case; both the soul sphere secret here and the possibility of locking oneself out of being able to access the secret exit in E2M5 have a similar sense of arbitrariness to them that I can't say I'm entirely a fan of. If I must restart, reload, or replay, I'd rather it be for reasons other than a failure to decrypt the map author's coded messages. E4M3: Earth, Blood and Fire I feel this map benefits from the presence of the secret level and the player's diversion through it en route to events here; there are enough similarities between E4M2 and E4M3 in terms of their architecture, the blending of one area into another, and the overall footprint and dimensions of each that I'm not sure either would be done any favours by being played one after the other. Lots of orthogonal corners, lots of lichen-hued blocks of grey stone, lots of green torches, and outside of the main area you'll find secondary spaces of green masonry, wood, and brown-green techbase wall overgrown with vines; if you'd told me Vile Affections and Earth, Blood and Fire were by the same author, I'd have believed you without doubt or question, which is probably a good indication that both map authors are successfully emulating Shawn Green's style, although I'll admit that, looking at Green's body of work, I feel there are traits both common to both maps that don't seem to have a clear source in the canon from which I'm drawing. If there are similarities in how E4M2 and E4M3 look, they certainly play very differently, in terms of the player's progression through each level and the combat encounters therein. Where E4M2 is all about getting from place to place on foot, teleporters form a major part of this level's structure and the player's progress through it; arranged around the central courtyard are what I would consider to be eight separate subzones in a hubspoke fashion, four or which are accessed through teleporters in a specific order, with Barons of Hell standing guard until you're in a position to telefrag them (unless you've carried over heavier weapons from a previous map). It feels like a puzzle level even though there's nothing too obtuse here in terms of cause and effect, and I couldn't help but think of it as a tomb or mausoleum as I was making my through, although I can't really point to anything in particular that left me with that impression and D&D-inspired maps feel like they're Tom Hall's forte more than Shawn Green's.
  7. TheOrganGrinder

    The DWmegawad Club plays: Doom the Way id Did (& Ultimate DTWID!)

    I'm gonna pass on voting since both these past couple of months I've been struggling to keep up with the club's pace and I have no idea if I'm even going to be participating in March. E4M2: Vile Affections Oh yeah, there's that Thy Flesh Consumed harshness I've been missing; or maybe it's just that the luck which spared me the worst of what the last level's shotgun sergeants might have inflicted on me didn't carry over into this one? I feel like much of the difficulty here arises from the scarcity of health pickups, so it's not merely a matter of being able to beat the combat encounters with the weapons and ammo you have available, but doing so unscathed, or at least as minimally scathed as possible, since recovering from serious injury is no easy prospect and every bit of health that you bleed to a stray shotgun pellet or imp fireball and can't claw back narrows your margin of error in later, tougher encounters. The map's secret areas can be game-changing in that respect, offering up a berserk pack and later a soul sphere to attentive, detail-oriented players, although the trigger for the berserk secret feels needlessly obtuse, not arbitrary necessarily, upon figuring it out you can see why a particular piece of architecture might be assigned as a trigger and a specific action might be needed to engage it, but there's a certain sense of the point-and-click adventure genre to it, of object + action = result as an equation solved through trial and error more than logic. The soul sphere and rocket secrets feel better highlighted, and I do like that the player knows exactly where the door opened by the switch in the soul sphere secret will be if they've been paying attention; one nice thing about relatively compact and brief maps like this is that you can reasonably expect the player to keep memorable scenes, details, or pieces of architecture in mind over the course of the map's whole running time and so link cause to effect, trigger to result, accordingly. Environmentally and aesthetically, the phrase I arrive at when grasping for words to describe this level is "anonymous murderbox," which has a more derogatory tone than I'd like; my impression is one of an environment designed around and in service of the gameplay, of a series of bounding boxes textured in a low-key way and spaces flowing seamlessly into one another. There's not much here that will make you stop and go "wow," and conversely not much here that will distract you from the task of surviving the pressure that imps, cacodemons, and shotgun sergeants will be steadily applying to you as you make your way from one encounter to the next. Minimalism certainly has its place and the absence of particularly fine detail helps the cleverness and smooth navigability of the underlying layout to shine through.
  8. TheOrganGrinder

    The DWmegawad Club plays: Doom the Way id Did (& Ultimate DTWID!)

    E3M8: Core As is the case with E1M8 and E2M8, I think the map author has achieved here as much as is possible to achieve within the spirit and limitations of the project, and that's no small feat. In particular, I think the use of environmental elements here is very strong, and contrasts wonderfully with the simplistic nature of Dis, which offers up a meagre handful of door actions to break up its static arena; here, the player must contend with damaging floors, crushing ceilings, and walls that raise and lower, all of which combine to make the battlefield a wonderfully dynamic one, compelling the player to consider the different rhythms of crushers and barriers in order to secure needed supplies without either being flattened or spending too much time exposed to the Spider Mastermind's withering fire. By modern standards it's not a complicated set of dance steps, but it's certainly more engaging than the original E1M8, and, I think, feels like an example of what the designers at id really could have created had they better engaged the tools at their disposal. I mentioned back when I was talking about E2M8 that it had a suggestion of the classic E3M8 in its overall shape; and sure, the five-pointed star here is simply a geometric shape, albeit one that's a part of occult symbols, but it's one that occurs in the original E1M8, and to see it here (rotated by 90 degrees, granted) makes me wonder if part of the project's direction was that each episode's boss map should reference or echo the boss map of a different classic episode in some fashion? But there's nothing about the WAD's E1M8 that really calls to mind Tower of Babel, so that particular bit of speculation is likely baseless. E4M1: Into The Grave So, I do have memories of playing Ultimate Doom the Way id Did back in... late 2018 or so? The file I have kicking around in my Doom folder is dated to December of that year and is marked as RC2, whereas I believe the official release was in early 2019, so clearly at the time I was playing some not-quite-finalised version during the late stages of the project. I remember being startled by the sudden difficulty spike as compared to Doom the Way id Did, and being torn apart multiple times before figuring out how to survive that first big outdoors area, and generally responding to the whole experience along the lines of "Yep, that's a worth successor to, and emulation of, Hell Beneath, right there." And I was probably playing that on Hurt Me Plenty, to boot. I'm wondering, then, if this particular has been toned down some from RC2? Because I've stepped things up from Hurt Me Plenty to Ultraviolence for this particular playthrough, and sure I tend to play continuous but that makes no difference at the start of an episode, and maybe that half-remembered past experience has hyped me up for a difficulty spike beyond all reasonable expectations, but honestly I went into this one expecting to be wrecked hard and wrecked often and that just... didn't happen? I can point to one moment as I was scrambling about in the second tower when by all rights I should have been utterly shredded by shotgun sergeants who were teleporting in half-a-dozen steps below and behind me on the stairs, who for whatever reason either didn't fire or managed to miss me entirely, and had that gone any differently I would have taken a dirt nap right then and there; and sure, the earlier parts of the level involve a fair bit of dancing around cacodemons that have to be circumnavigated because you just don't have the firepower to deal with them right away. But aside from that? This wasn't too bad, like, at all. Between the rocket stockpile and the radiation suits I'd go so far as to say that the map feels positively generous in outfitting you for your duel with the Cyberdemon guarding the exit, if you don't just want to lure him down into the lava and skip past him entirely, taking that rocket stockpile into the next map if you're playing continuously. I came into this expecting to suffer, and instead I enjoyed myself considerably, and that's not something I'm going to complain about.
  9. TheOrganGrinder

    The DWmegawad Club plays: Doom the Way id Did (& Ultimate DTWID!)

    E3M9: Lake of Fire This one doesn't entirely click for me. It's certainly an enjoyable map, but I'm left with the impression that it's wandered a little bit sideways from the project's premise and ended up feeling less like something that could have been a part of Doom in an alternate timeline, and more like a tidied-up version of familiar Inferno levels with all the rough and ragged edges filed smooth. The outdoor section draws upon Mt. Erebus pretty plainly, while the indoor section isn't as immediately comparable to any single, specific map but feels like the doted-upon love child of Pandemonium and House of Pain. In part this comes down to the limited selection of textures available to map authors wishing to depict Doom's version of Hell - there's only so many times you can throw around flesh, masonry, lava, and crumbling rock before any instance starts to remind you of every other instance - and I won't claim that I could have built a map with the same title, premise, and restrictions that didn't stumble at the same pitfalls, so I'd rather not take the map author too harshly to task here. At least it's not an attempt to recycle Warrens' own map-recycling gimmick? Taken purely on its own merits this is an enjoyable romp through an infernal fortress-temple perched on the edge of the titular burning lake along with a handful of outbuildings, at least one of which will have to be looted before you can breach the castle gate and start assailing the demonic citadel in earnest. I do like the subtle integration of a vertical element as the paths within the fortress diverge, one leading east and up to some kind of open-air shrine overlooking the lava lake, a place that feels to me like a ritual hall or sacrificial chamber, while to the west, the hallways tend downward as they lead to the inner sanctum where the yellow skull key that unlocks the path to the exit can be wrested from its rather ferocious defenders. Much of the map can be considered optional, but its generally open nature means that dancing past enemies that you don't strictly have to fight just leaves them free to harry you at various points on your return journey, often reinforced with additional monsters that your dungeon-delving antics have released. Monster closets tend to be rather removed from their triggers, so rather than a strict perception of cause and effect, treasure and trap, there's instead a merrily chaotic feeling of demons being set free upon cruel and capricious whims to punish you for your general insolence and refusal to lay down and die; you often don't know just what you did to end up with a particular pack of pinkie demons, cloud of lost souls, or swarm of cacodemons turned loose for you to deal with, but they're angry and they're in your face and you'll be too busy pulling the trigger to spend time ruminating upon the exact positions of possible trigger linedefs. E3M7: Inner Sanctum I mentioned back when I was talking about the early-to-mid maps of this WAD's re-imagining of The Shores of Hell that certain levels possessed a sense of outward rather than forward progression, starting the player off in a central location from which they had to work their way out. This map starts out cast in very much the same fashion, with the start room resembling a prison cell or perhaps part of a vault, considering the keys and BFG 9000 locked away in the adjacent chambers; from that starting point, though, escaping the central structure takes no time at all, and from that stage onward the player's path loops continuously back into the central structure, the titular sanctum, from different directions, each loop yielding a different prize before the player is cast out once more and has to find their way back in again via a different entrance. The level re-uses its encounter spaces wonderfully, without ever feeling repetitive; every time you return to a place you've visited previously, a door opens or a wall drops or a new pack of demons has been turned loose hungry for your blood. I find myself particularly tickled by the way that notion is applied to the teleporter in the very centre of the map, which can drop you off in any of four different destinations, depending on the side from which you enter it; one either puts you on the path to the exit or drops you off outside the sanctum, depending on the state of your progress through the level, but two lead to marked secrets and the last to an untagged but delightful Dopefish secret. The setting of the map, an infernal temple in the heart of a vast underground cavern, doesn't feel as though it has any direct analogue or counterpart in the IWAD, so in that respect it's a pretty refreshing experience, and while I can see where people might be drawing comparisons to Mt. Erebus in terms of its overall layout, I think it more closely resemble's Doom II's MAP20: The Citadel, simply by dint of most of its geometry being condensed into a single, rather complicated structure. I'll happily acknowledge it as feeling like an authentic example of Petersen's mapping style even if it perhaps embodies that style at a more advanced stage than is typical of Inferno.
  10. TheOrganGrinder

    The DWmegawad Club plays: Doom the Way id Did (& Ultimate DTWID!)

    E3M4: Torture Chambers Coming on the heels of Malebolge, I feel this one delivers a greater sense of authenticity along with no shortage of fun, at the expense of maybe hewing a bit too close to direct IWAD homages in some of its areas. There's something of both Hell Keep and House of Pain in the map's demonic DNA, and the lava tunnels can't help but call to mind Limbo's sewer of blood even if that section of the map is strictly optional here. Combat is fairly low-key for the most part, although that's an impression that's surely shaped by the fact that I'm playing continuously and not worrying so much about ammunition and other supplies; maybe there aren't enough bullets, shells, rockets, and cells to comfortable handle this dungeon's denizens if playing from a pistol start, but I did feel as I was making my way through the level that some encounters were choreographed so as to be skippable, with plenty of room to dance around if you don't have the weapons, the supplies, or simply the patience to deal with Cacodemons and Barons of Hell in the numbers in which they're encountered here. More threatening are the map's environmental hazards; from crushers to damaging floors to explosive barrels tucked away in dark corners just waiting for a stray shotgun blast or burst from a chaingun to set them off, there's a lot here that isn't a monster that's still perfectly capable of wrecking your day. Radiation suits are the currency with which you buy time to explore, and there's enough of them to mostly let you see everything the map has to offer without more than scorching your toes a little, but they represent a constantly ticking clock that will keep you moving just as surely as any prowling demon or incoming fireball. Oddly enough I found what I consider to be the map's more complicated secret areas pretty promptly, but was running back and forth for longer than I like to admit hunting for a final secret that turned out to be a closet full of medikits, indicated by a misaligned wall texture - they don't come more simple than that, although I'm a bit back-and-forth on whether I consider hiding the linedefs that make up that closet to reduce the utility of the computer area map fair play or dirty pool; you've always got the option of not putting in a computer area map if you want your players to use their eyes only, after all. E3M5: Chapel of Scorn This is another occasion on which I find myself saying both "I really enjoyed this level," and "this feels more like it belongs to Thy Flesh Consumed than Inferno," as though a level that looks good and plays well can't be a part of Inferno, which really isn't my intention. Upon reflection, I feel as though what defines E3 and separates it from E4 is a sense of the experimental, that after one episode of techbases and another of increasingly corrupted techbases, the player's journey through Hell isn't just a matter of adopting a new texture palette but also of experimenting with new ideas in gameplay and environment design; by the time E4 rolls around, in the post-Doom II era, the collective experience of the design team includes looking back on those experiments, determining which worked and which did not, and incorporating that lesson and others into an overall more polished set of maps. "More polished" is the biggest thing that jumps out at me about the experience of playing this map; I can point to maybe three or four different Inferno maps from which it feels like it's drawing inspiration and borrowing elements, but those inspirations and elements are deftly rendered with greater sophistication, complexity, and subtlety here. The overall layout consists of a pair of infernal chapels separated by a small outdoors area reminiscent of a red-hued Slough of Despair; you'll start off in the foyer of the larger shrine (I think of this as the northern or green chapel) but with the lion's share of the building locked away behind the yellow door, progression will take you outdoors and into the other, smaller temple before you finally make your way back via a rather circuitous route ending with a teleporter. I do like that both the yellow and red keys are presented on elevated balconies, in plain sight but out of reach, and that you have to work your way around to them from behind; it's the kind of deliberate objective-setting that the original IWAD levels can be a bit hit-or-miss on. I also enjoy the extent to which the map author has made each of the two shrines distinct from the other, and filled them both with traps, ambushes, and memorable rooms, all without straying from the aesthetic of the episode overall or the level in particular, and the consistency of the internal masonry throughout is what makes locations like the SLADWALL undercroft/crypt or the lava tunnels to really shine as departures from the dominant theme. E3M6: Depths I love the contrast between the preceding level and this one: from an environment that's embedded and well-realised within as much of an "outdoors" as Hell can offer to one that's effectively anonymised by its generally subterrannean nature, from an orderly presentation of chapels and crypts to a chaotic Hell of steep stairways, random angles, and ever-changing materials where little is orthogonal and nothing is symmetrical, you couldn't ask for a more aggressively different pair of levels within the overall theme of the project. I enjoy the hot start, with the player carefully picking their way past explosive barrels only to break into a scramble when a hidden trigger sets off a chain of explosions, and the fact that the last barrel can get knocked down into the room below to catch a player who thought they'd made it to safety and dithered at the bottom of the chute is a wonderfully cheeky touch. From there, the player has a few different choices as to how they might want to approach this intractable tangle of stairs, chambers, and passages that puts me in mind of nothing so much as E3M3: Pandemonium by way of Frank Gehry. I probably bled more health to the denizens of this map than on any other level in this episode, which I'm inclined to blame at least in part on knowingly sloppy play but should be credited just as much to the map author's good use of monsters in combat encounters throughout the level; I felt constantly pressured but never overwhelmed, putting the difficulty here right in the sweet spot for me. The most memorable encounters were probably the shotgun and chaingun traps toward the start of the level, and the "Phobos Anomaly redux" confrontation with paired Barons of Hell, lurching forth from their sarcophagi once the player has the yellow key in hand and is ready to sprint for the exit. I ended up finding the secret exit with maybe 80-some kills out of 113 on the clock, but I stuck around to clear the place out and track down the remaining secrets; I could have sworn I'd checked all the pillars in the blood sump room (that kind of setup clearly telegraphs "find the odd one out,") quite early in the map's running time, but evidently not closely enough, as the partial invisibility down there was the last of the map's nine secrets that I eventually uncovered.
  11. TheOrganGrinder

    The DWmegawad Club plays: Doom the Way id Did (& Ultimate DTWID!)

    E3M3: Malebolge I really want to sing the praises of this level, of its setting and its gameplay, both of which are absolutely top-tier. It takes place in an infernal fortress perched above a foetid morass of blood and vines and caverns, the whole of it functioning as a tight tangle of interconnected spaces through which spectres, imps, cacodemons, and worse are free to roam, pouncing on you from unexpected angles as you struggle to keep your bearings through disorienting twists and turns, threatening shadows, and excellent use of relatively modest height variations to make the vertical dimension a prominent part of the gameplay despite pretty much the whole level taking place within a horizontal "slice" a mere 272 units high; as far as I can tell there are three sectors with ceilings higher than +128, the exit room's floor is the lowest point on the map at -160, and the "bottom level" elsewhere tends toward a floor height of -128, with bloody channels and passages recessed to -144 in places. It's quite the trick to create a map that, objectively speaking, is flat in its gross proportions, but doesn't at all feel so. ...Which is maybe where this level falls down a bit as a part of Doom the Way id Did, because it's too clever, too polished, with too much careful craft poured into achieving visual fidelity with a minimum of sectors and linedefs; it's great to look at, engaging to play through, but just doesn't feel to me like something Sandy Petersen would've cooked up, or something that might have been a part of classic Doom, back in the day. The greater sophistication on display here suggests to me at the earliest Thy Flesh Consumed, so maybe this wouldn't have felt as out of place were it scheduled one episode later in the project, or maybe there's just no shaking off the feeling of modern design sensibility that suffuses it. Which is a real shame, because as I said it's good both visually and in gameplay terms, and I'd hate for "authentic id, authentic Hall, authentic Petersen," to end up implying that maps can't be those things and good-looking or fun, or that a map that's good-looking and fun ceases to be authentic. But this one doesn't quite thread the needle for me. One thing that's maybe worth mentioning is an interesting quirk of how the mechanism that grants access to the yellow key is set up. Because the linedef separating the key's plinth from the passage leading up to it is assigned a tag and action to lower the plinth, the additional trap that's supposed to trigger at that stage, turning loose a Baron of Hell in the courtyard below, actually has its trigger built into the outer lines of the key's plinth, such that they won't be triggered until the player jumps down from that vantage point after collecting the key. I think the mapper's intent is that the sudden appearance of a surprise cacodemon hissing right in the player's ear as a wall behind them lowered, coupled with the fact that most expedient route to the exit upon collecting the key is to drop down and turn to the right, will prompt the player to do exactly that, at which point they're set upon by the Baron of Hell and compelled, at a minimum, to expend a little effort dodging its attacks while blowing away the "meat wall" cacodemon right on the other side of the exit door. What happened to me, though, was that I heard the wall lowering behind me in time to turn and confront the cacodemon before I'd hit the switch to open up the obvious escape roop, then once I'd picked up the yellow key, I checked my map, noted that there was still a lot of stuff behind me that I had yet to explore, and turned around and went on my way without jumping down at all. Which left me, later, at 79/80 kills and 10/10 secrets, scratching my head and wondering where in Hell the last monster might be hiding, resorting eventually to IDDT to reveal the presence of one last monster closet and mentally retracing my path through the level to figure out where the missed trigger might have been.
  12. TheOrganGrinder

    The DWmegawad Club plays: Doom the Way id Did (& Ultimate DTWID!)

    E3M1: Abyssal Stronghold I don't think it's terribly controversial to suggest that, of the maps that open each episode of classic Doom, E3M1: Hell Keep may be the least fondly regarded of the three. On the one hand, then, Abyssal Stronghold may not really have to work as hard as either Communications Bridge or Receiving Station, since it's not trying to fill the shoes of a well-loved fan favourite to the same degree; on the other hand, perhaps it has to work that much harder to redeem a map slot generally not credited with making the best impression upon players getting started on the game's third episode. Abyssal Stronghold is a pretty good map, taking design cues from the classic E1M1 and E3M1 in roughly equal measure, with a layout that curls in a gently clockwise fashion, reminiscent of Hangar minus its central courtyard in its scale and the way it leads the player steadily through different iterations of the episode's theme. Flesh and blood, rocky landscapes, baroque castles, volcanic caverns... all the elements of a classic Doom Hell map are present and correct, and this certainly introduces those elements more confidently and convincingly than did Hell Keep back in the day. Gameplay is a little on the slow side, with the perpetual worry that there may be multiple cacodemons or a Baron of Hell lurking ahead encouraging the player to conserve precious shotgun shells and instead resort to the pistol or fists to dispatch the imps and pinkie demons that make up the bulk of the map's monster population; as in the classic E3M1, there are no zombies or shotgun sergeants to be found here, although I don't know whether that was a part of the level's design brief or if that particular homage found its way in purely through the mapper's own choice. I'm not well placed to judge whether this is a faithful emulation of the Petersen style, but I do feel it succeeds as a plausible might-have-been E3M1, with nothing really jumping out at me that would seem hypothetically out of place in the IWAD. E3M2: City of Corpses The text file for this project indicates that this particular map is a collaboration between two authors, and I'd be interested to know just which parts of the level each worked on, because there's definitely a sense of two distinct aesthetics in play here, of carefully crafted structures rubbing shoulders with the minimalistic painting of the infernal landscape, of squirming and writhing one's way through convoluted corridors one moment and sprinting across open acres beneath a scorched-red sky the next. It represents perhaps a more gradual continuation and expansion of the Hell aesthetic after Abyssal Stronghold than the notoriously tangled and truculent classic E3M2 does following on the heels of Hell Keep, granting the player more in the way of brimstone-scented breathing room and some freedom as to where to go and what to do first upon emerging from the initial dungeon that feels like an extension of the preceding map's fairly linear sequence of introductory set pieces, even if there's only so far you can get without the blue skull key. The player is given enough elbow room throughout most of the map that most of the monsters have trouble backing up their bark with their bite; there's a lot of noise and fury, a lot of flying fireballs and shrieking skulls, but an experienced player can dance graceful loops around the worst of what this map might throw at them, although the cacodemon arena from which the yellow skull key must eventually be wrestled and the lost souls that emerge to harry the player's descent along a slippery path of boiling blood can make up a pleasantly tense monster sandwich around a player who doesn't prefer to methodically eliminate the opposition on the way down. The late, optional but non-secret placement of the plasma gun suggests authorship with an eye toward continuous play, since it's entirely possible that every monster on the map will be dead before the player finds the thing; a nice treat for an invading marine about to grapple with E3M3's toothier challenges, or a prompt for frustrated grumbling by a player bemoaning their sinking of time and bullets into the Baron of Hell tap-dancing atop the exit portal just before stumbling upon the better and quicker tool for that particular job?
  13. TheOrganGrinder

    The DWmegawad Club plays: Doom the Way id Did (& Ultimate DTWID!)

    E2M6: Foundry Halls of the Damned is probably my favourite level from the whole of the original Doom, certainly my favourite map of the second episode, and so this level has some pretty high standards to live up to, for me personally. I think it succeeds in doing that, delivering an experience that's every bit as threatening, unsettling, claustrophobic, and varied as the original E2M6, while deftly avoiding any obvious homages and serving up a generous helping of fresh carnage to keep players new and old alike engaged. The start is set up in an interesting way, with a very limited area initially available to explore, adjoined to the rest of the map via connections that you can't use yet: a door locked with the yellow key; a lift which can only be lowered from the other, bottom side; a switch on the other side of bars, out of your reach. Getting out of the initial corridor requires using a teleporter, which then whisks you away to another part of the map entirely, leaving you disoriented and vulnerable; sure, you can use the automap to confirm that you're some way to the south and west of where you started, but you have no way of knowing whether you're above or below the area you were just in, which of the passages available to you represents progress, and which might bring you back to more familiar and hopefully safer territory. From there, an extensive tangle of labyrinthine tunnels, drops, and teleporters unfolds before you as you scrabble your way through the depths of the foundry toward the exit. I do appreciate the fact that much of the level is strictly optional, with big chunks of the north-west, south-west, and south-east that you can ignore entirely if your goal is getting to the exit as quickly as possible; that much, at least, feels like a genuine trait of the original id maps, although I'm kind of halfway on what others have observed about certain details and arrangements of spaces here feeling more modern and somewhat out of place. The freedom to bypass significant parts of the level, the designation of certain major slices of real estate as explicitly optional, feels like something modern maps have moved away from, with more of a sense that, if the map author has built it, the player is expected to engage with it; that's not an unreasonable position to take, when in-game architecture is more detailed and demanding, and the multiple balancing acts of gameplay tend toward the more finely tuned, so that's not intended as a criticism, merely an observation of what differentiates this map and its inspirations from contemporary tendencies. E2M7: Ore Processing This one definitely has a whiff of Spawning Vats about it, not in the form of grand and obvious homages but in the incorporation of smaller elements into similar patterns, with its narrow stairwells, various control rooms, its alternation of rocky or rounded spaces with the strictly orthogonal. It sets itself apart with its greater use of the vertical dimension, with a clear sense of there being upper and lower levels to the facility, the latter consisting primarily of a vine-choked and cavernous hall which many smaller rooms on the upper level overlook. I don't know if it's a larger interior space than is present in any of the original maps, in terms of its square footage, but it feels grand and portentious in a way that doesn't quickly call to mind a parallel to any part of any of the classic levels. There's a lot of variety on display here, as you proceed from one part of the map to the next: dark and light, claustrophobic versus open, technological construction versus natural caverns versus infernal transformation, different textures and materials and scales at work, in a way that all feels very faithful to the Deimos experience, while simultaneously building upon and beyond what has come before. It may be that this episode's aesthetic is the most difficult to invoke and the easiest to get wrong, because it commingles techbase areas and grungy decrepitude and Hell intruding into man-made structures, and it's all too possible for any attempt to do that to instead feel like a hodge-podge, a mish-mash, three different themes diced up and muddled together rather than a single theme that produces different expressions. I feel this is a map that succeeds at being a Deimos map, and at being the episode's penultimate map, with tougher combat and a more enjoyably intractable layout than what's come before. One thing about the vertical offset between the big central chamber and the surrounding elevated rooms and corridors it that it brings the map's various spaces together without necessarily doing much to forewarn you about what's ahead; picking your way along a hallway, you'll pass a window overlooking a big room, but the inflexible neck of the vanilla Doom marine doesn't allow you to peer down, and so the room drops away toward a floor that's far out of sight, that could be a hundred feet or five hundred feet beneath you for all that you can discern, and from the reverse angle, you'll maybe see windows crowded around the top of your screen as you explore the lower level, but all you'll see through those windows is a slice of the ceiling or maybe the top of a wall, rather than gleaning anything meaningful about the room's layout, contents, and possible dangers. It's quite deliberate, and a great way to connect all of the map's various areas into a single structure without giving the game away or allowing too many threats to be neutralised from too safe a distance and too sheltered a position. E2M8: Vault A lot of what I said about E1M8 is just as applicable here, and will I'm sure be just as applicable to E3M8: it's damn hard to build a map that measures up to the shock and awe of a player's first encounter with any of Doom's bosses, and when a map author is working with the vanilla game's resources and limitations, it's just as damn hard to do something different that's just as striking and memorable as one of the classic end-of-episode boss maps. I think the designer here has done about as much as is possible, with the resources available and within the limitations imposed by the nature of the project; the tension builds steadily as the player opens up the vault one armoured layer at a time, and the third-act twist of the room's outer walls lowering at the same time as the final pillar at the heart of the vault, presenting threats not just in front of you but all around you, is about as clever a subversion of expectations as can be asked for, nicely introducing an unexpected element of danger into an encounter that by its very nature can't help but be a little bit predictable. I don't know if it's deliberate that the basic shape of the map is reminiscent of the vanilla game's E3M8 (this is Doom the Way id Did after all, not Switcheroom) but if so, it's a neat way of messing with the player's expectations further, albeit one that's likely difficult to fully appreciate while dodging lost souls and incoming rockets.
  14. TheOrganGrinder

    The DWmegawad Club plays: Doom the Way id Did (& Ultimate DTWID!)

    E2M5: Deimos Command Others have said their piece about the fact that you can close off one of this map's secret areas (and thus access to the secret exit) without any real warning or sense of why that ought to take place, which I think is a pretty significant flaw but not one that necessarily gets in the way of enjoying the rest of the map, if you're accepting of the fact that you won't be going to E2M9, or don't know the map well enough to realise that you've sealed off the secret exit, or just aren't fussy about finding all the secrets or making your way to the secret map. There's plenty of other content here for you to get your teeth into, with combat environments ranging from the wide-open to the decidedly claustrophobic, and every entrant in Doom's bestiary apart from the not-yet-appearing boss monsters making an appearance and playing a role. I've previously commented on Tom Hall's maps as being fairly flat overall, and I think that's something that's true of Doom in general, compared to the more ambitious and experimental use of the vertical dimension in its sequel. This isn't necessarily a Hall-inspired map (indeed, the Doom Wiki describes it as being designed in the Petersen style) but that certain sense of flatness persists, as fits the aesthetic of the episode and the game overall; I'll admit to finding some humour in the fact that this is the work of an author whose chosen moniker is one that encourages a mapping element that this particular aesthetic instead quite conspicuously eschews. To the extent that 3D is used here, it's subtle but effective; consider the control room that grants access to the yellow key, located below the level of the adjacent toxic pit with only the shallow sill of the room's windows holding back a flood of corrosive slime, or the constant variation in ceiling heights throughout, to no particular end other than unsettling the player with dimensions and proportions that aren't quite right or comfortable. The limited Doom bestiary lends itself more to steady attrition of the player's health and armour than the sort of sudden, massive damage that the monsters of Doom II are better-equipped to deliver, and this is indeed a map that, while it features its share of traps and ambushes, is more concerned with wearing the invading marine down, chipping away at the player's health with a stray fireball here, a graze from a bullet or shotgun pellet there, a tick of damage during a dash across one of its many patches of damaging floor. I did perceive a deliberate echo of an earlier encounter during the dash through slime toward the regular exit, for completion's sake before doubling back and making my way to E2M9; up in the north-east of the map, there's another passage that curls back on itself similarly and is likewise infested by spectres, although that earlier encounter doesn't take place in a toxic tunnel. I can see that the spectres that the player has to chew through on the way to the exit exist primarily to make the radiation suit a much harder requirement; the corridor is twisty enough as it is, and with beefy monsters around every corner, the player is compelled to spend even more time ankle-deep in noxious sludge, rather than half-sprinting, half-pinballing their way to the exit and trusting to blue armour to see them through. E2M9: Nebulous Origins This is a bit of a weird one, I feel, because it couldn't really be any further from the infighting simulator that is Fortress of Mystery while still staying within the boundaries of the Deimos aesthetic, but if you ask me to describe what it is rather than what it isn't, I'm going to struggle to respond in any but the most vague terms. Does it feel like an authentic Tom Hall map, an authentic Sandy Petersen map, something that plausibly could have been a part of The Shores of Hell in another timeline than our own? Yes to all of the above, but I'm not sure what else I can say about the level as a whole; its constituent parts invite comment individually, but they don't gel together especially well into a cohesive and coherent whole. Here's a church, here's a crate room, here's a toxic sewer network, here's the control room from which some UAC experiment is being monitored; taking each on its own, they're certainly neat enough, but put together like this, the level feels like someone has torn out the pages from a sketchbook of E2-themed map fragments and taped or stapled them together, edge-to-edge, without a directing goal in mind of a "big picture" sense of what the environment is supposed to be. Maybe the whole is supposed to evoke a sense of the "greatest hits" within this particular mapping theme? Overall this one just doesn't click for me I'm afraid.
  15. TheOrganGrinder

    The DWmegawad Club plays: Doom the Way id Did (& Ultimate DTWID!)

    E2M3: Rec Facility I think this is the first map of the episode that embodies what I think of as the Deimos aesthetic not just in the environment in depicts, but in the way it depicts that environment; there's a distinctive roughness, a raw quality, to the maps that make up The Shores of Hell, and I feel that particular quality is missing from E2M1 and E2M2, for all that they're more polished levels with more complex layouts - or perhaps precisely because they're more polished and complex. According to the Doom Wiki, this also happens to be the first map of the episode that reflects a Hall/Petersen aesthetic rather than Petersen/Romero, and I think it's probably fair to point to that roughness and raw quality as Tom Hall's distinctive set of mapping fingerprints, which are certainly all over the lion's share of the original maps that make up Doom's second episode. Whether "this map feels more authentically Tom Hall than the two that came before," might be a statement of praise, criticism, or neutral commentary, is left for the reader to decide. Many of the map's spaces are fairly anonymous and interchangeable in character, rooms and hallways that exist simply as venues for bloodshed, but the level name, via the magic of the player's imagination, bestows a bit more personality upon certain areas; it's easy to find oneself prompted to read the character of a discotheque into the dark space slashed by ribbons of illumination spilling forth from strip lights beyond the blue door, or to imagine the south-western chamber as a nightclub, with a bar, a dance floor, the centrepiece tall techno pillar standing in for a dancer's pole upon its raised platform and catwalk. Other areas aren't so readily imagined as standing in for some real-world setting or function, and that's fine, too; it's Doom, not every room has to be thick with detail that clearly suggests a particular function or specific purpose, it's enough to use textures and architecture to suggest different functions for each space, to differentiate one part of the map from another in the player's mind. The opposition still consists mostly of fodder enemies, with a modest number of cacodemons and Barons of Hell presenting gristlier nuggets of meat to chew through at specific points; it's a fairly flat map, too, which I feel is an authentic Tom Hall trait but does limit the fiendishness of possible combat setups, with only a few threats drawing the player's awareness away from their natural eye level. E2M4: Mental Ward Without exaggeration, I spent like half an hour on this map, and most of that was spent hunting for secret areas that I remembered just well enough to know where I should be looking, but not quite well enough that I was doing more than flailing uselessly at everything but the right trigger. Inevitably the computer area map was the very last thing I found, too; that's how it so often goes, and I can't help but laugh when it happens, especially when the trigger for that particular secret is right out in the open if the player is paying reasonable attention to the environment. So, this one starts out as an exercise in atmosphere, with the player creeping forward through the lobby of a seemingly abandoned, presumably haunted medical facility, flinching away from shadowy corners and openings into side passages that only grow more threatening as they continually, conspicuously fail to unleash any sort of threat upon the invading marine. Maybe your first taste of actual combat will come during a brief detour into the dispensary, but the more natural path of progression seems to be to follow the main corridor along its clockwise spiral, where you'll be set upon by spectres and - on the higher difficulty settings - imps raining down fire from an awkwardly elevated position. From there, it's pretty much a classic Deimos experience of satisfying quality, with the map sprawling out from the reasonably grounded setting of its central starting area into ever more warped and hostile shapes and environments as the player makes progress. It shares with the preceding map a centrally located starting position and a consequent sense that progress occurs in an outward rather than forward direction, casting the invading marine in the role of a patient escaping from the none-too-tender cares of the ward's demonic doctors and their medieval therapries. There are quite a few small, optional, basically incidental rooms scattered throughout the map that contribute a fair bit to its sense of place; to the south, you'll find an armoury and a cache of medical supplies in a section of the hospital that's been flooded at some point during the process of subversion and transformation, while further to the north you'll find a trio of chambers suggestive of isolation rooms or solitary confinement cells. I found it interesting that, even playing in ZDoom and using mouselook, I couldn't look up far enough to see the ceilings of the isolation rooms, so I went in and had a look at the map in Doom Builder, which rather transformed my perception of that particular area: the cells are twice as tall as they are long, with a hole in the ceiling of each, suggesting nothing so much as an oubliette and ramping up the sense of medical horror via primitivism and the spectre of the mental hospital as a place of barbarism, cruelty, and mistreatment. As an aside, I do like that it's possible to reach the exit without collecting the blue key (or indeed any of the keys) by awakening former humans with gunfire and letting them open the way out from the other side. That said, I'm not entirely sure this is intentional; the imps in the same hallway are prevented from reaching the door by monster blocking linedefs, and there's a solitary sound blocking linedef part of the way down the stairs that suggests that the author might not have intended for sound to reach all the way from the observation room to the zombie guards.
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