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Not Jabba

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  1. I missed this as well -- and also the teleporter that takes you to lower the yellow bars blocking the yellow key area after you do the double bounce onto the switch platform, and the teleporter under the blue armor that leads you to the room with the fountain and the blue and red switches. The size and sheer amount of stuff that draws the eye makes the map pretty challenging to navigate, and there's a lot to be said for directionality and broadcasting of exactly what's happening.
  2. Not Jabba

    Ultraviolence = HARD

    I feel that a tailored experience is always better than one that's generated through mutators. In other words: 1) Three skill settings designed by hand and seriously tested by someone, even if it's just the developer, are better than simply having enemies do more damage or have more health or whatever. but... 2) One skill setting designed by hand and two others sloppily thrown in with no testing or communication is worse than one clearly communicated "normal" setting plus mutators. The problem with the mutators is that they're inherently not a part of level design; they're added in after the fact. If Easy = Normal with enemies doing less damage, then it's just a more patronizing version of the same map. If Hard = Normal with enemies doing more damage, then it's the same challenge except with greater danger of being randomly one-shotted, the sort of challenge that either requires loading more saves or playing more conservatively to not get hit, rather than playing the way you want but learning to improve your strategic thinking. Mutating enemy health or player damage output is worse for obvious reasons -- nobody wants the settings to be defined purely by increasing grind (I don't think you were suggesting that as an option, but I've seen it done). Increasing enemy aggression or attack speed just destroys the balance of a map and turns normally-balanced scenarios into ones that require cheesing or corner-camping to beat (see Heretic's Nightmare equivalent, Black Plague Possesses Thee). Basically, the advantage of the mutator system is that there is only one real difficulty setting that is properly balanced for the level design, which means there's no real need for choice; the game is telling you what setting to play on. This can be a good thing, assuming that setting is well designed for your skill level. However, it makes the other settings fairly meaningless, particularly the harder ones. The lower settings are "Sure, we'll let you play too, and we'll go easy on you" -- and while I think accessibility matters more than gamers tend to acknowledge, that's certainly not the same as having a setting that's designed for your skill level and allows you to grow. The higher settings, on the other hand, simply become gimmicks -- "ok, but can you beat it with 1.5X ENEMY DAMAGE!?!?!" The problem with the thingplacement system is that a lot of people have historically been lazy about it, which always equates to only taking UV seriously and throwing the other two settings together as an afterthought. However, there have also been people providing three well-designed skill settings since the iwads. For players, the problem is that you don't know which wads are which -- a problem so basic it's amazing it took anyone this long to address it.
  3. Not Jabba

    Ultraviolence = HARD

    All very good points, and thank you for the insight. I think forethought and communication are both separate issues from being able to find a testing pool, though, and can only be positive things regardless of how many testers you have. If you tell players how skill 2 and skill 4 are designed, then someone who comes to your release thread knows what they're looking for. It could be the difference between getting a great tester on skill 2 who gives you useful feedback and that same tester playing skill 4 and just telling you "it's too hard and I hated it," whether it's actually got balance issues or not. This is true, but by handling difficulties with resources alone, there's also a much narrower difference between settings, which may not always be the best way to handle things. Including an extra megasphere may make little difference for a player who isn't able to wrap their head around really advanced battle tactics that are required for a fight in the first place. Loosening up the pressure of the monster placement in conjunction with more resources will create a broader range of accessibility from the high skills to the low ones. The point there would be to handle the reductions strategically so every setting is an "intended" experience -- keep the things that are interesting about the fight on all settings, but use reductions on lower settings to make it easier for players to find safe spaces or maneuvering strategies, for instance. Either method can work, and it obviously depends on how much variation the mapper wants there to be in difficulty settings.
  4. Not Jabba

    Ultraviolence = HARD

    I've noticed as a general trend that mappers are paying more serious attention to difficulty settings recently, and that lower difficulty settings are more likely to be enjoyable in recent releases (if they're handled by skilled mappers). If it matters to you, also note that there are Cacoward judges who don't play on UV by default, and I've seen poorly or well-balanced lower difficulty settings impact voting results. Just food for thought. For my part, I strongly agree with rd -- challenging stuff can be cool and tends to feel more competitive for attention due to the fact that almost everyone seems to be making it, but there's a place for well-made, awesome casual stuff, and it would be nice to see more of that. I've tried to take back the term "casual" and view it as a positive thing, if it's done well. Presumably, if your UV is casual, then you don't need to worry as much about lower settings, and possibly shouldn't even have them, or should handle them in different ways than removing lots of monsters. If your UV is challenging, then it becomes a bigger deal -- you probably can't please everyone, but you can still take a larger potential player base seriously. But I think the best thing any mapper can do is to take a page from @Bridgeburner56's book with how he handled difficulty settings in Bastion of Chaos -- not only to have a clearly defined philosophy and intended audience for each of the three main difficulty settings, but also to communicate those philosophies explicitly to players so that they know what setting to play on.
  5. Not Jabba

    The Top 25 Sector Ships of All Time

    Jimmy, you're amazing. I've thought about doing something like this before, but I knew I'd never be able to remember where I saw all those boats.
  6. Not Jabba

    Faithless: Trilogy - BETA 1a released!

    Probably not yet, because there are more changes to the player class and more new weapons in Faithless Trilogy. I will patch it in the future. I've played FT unmodded though, and it's great.
  7. Not Jabba

    The more I play Heretic, the more it frustrates me

    Right, Gargoyles are weaker (though hitting a Gargoyle with all three projectiles from a Crossbow is very difficult due to the way they're knocked back), and Golems/Nitrogolems are about the same health as Imps/chaingunners (but again, looking at two crossbow hits and occasionally three vs. one shotgun blast and occasionally two). The rest of the common enemies -- Sabreclaws, UWs, Disciples, Weredragons, and Ophids -- are in the 150-300 range, which is more like Pinky -- Revenant rather than Pinky -- Caco, but you get the idea. Most weapons in Heretic don't deplete that amount of HP very quickly, and the high amount of knockback means that a decent amount of the damage will end up missing, especially with the Hellstaff and to some extent the Crossbow.
  8. Not Jabba

    The more I play Heretic, the more it frustrates me

    Most Heretic weapons are equivalent to Doom ones, but that's not the most useful comparison. What matters is how it feels to use them, which has a lot to do with how weapon damage lines up against monster HP (very different between the two games), and what kinds of niches each weapon fills. The Crossbow does 24-112 damage vs. the shotgun's 35-105, but it's also consistently being used against monsters with health somewhere around a Chaingunner or between a Pinky and Cacodemon (which is where most of Heretic's standard enemies fall). Having three points of damage instead of seven, its distribution is a lot less reliable and feels less consistent (you can *sort of* count on killing a chaingunner with a shotgun blast, but nobody is ever going to tell you you can reliably one-shot a Nitrogolem with a Crossbow hit). Also, with over 2/3 of its damage focused on a single projectile, it doesn't feel like the rest of the weapon's spread pulls much weight, and it becomes pretty similar to a weak projectile rifle. In Doom, you have enemies with very low health that can be killed very quickly by low-tier weapons, and then as you face more powerful weapons you graduate to distinctly more powerful weapons that can in turn kill those higher-tier enemies pretty quickly. In Heretic, most weapons do fairly equivalent damage over time, and against enemies that all fall into a pretty amorphous range of HP where it takes a little longer to kill them with whatever you're using, however it may compare to damage output in Doom on paper. The Hellstaff, for instance, may look like a Plasma Rifle, but its projectiles do 3/5 of the damage, and I've never been able to detect a noticeable difference in kill speed between it and the Dragon Claw. The Firemace is very similar to both. The Dragon Claw itself is definitely strong for its particular niche, but it's probably the only weapon in vanilla Heretic I would say that about. With the way monsters are used in Heretic's IWAD maps, all of this is balanced by the fact that there are Tomed Weapons and the fact that you can deal damage simultaneously with Time Bombs and weapons; however, you can get through the vast majority of the game without being pressured into using either of these items, so it definitely becomes a matter of playstyle.
  9. Not Jabba

    Cacowards 2020 Mentionation Thread

    While we're quoting the first page: This feels so much more ominous in hindsight.
  10. Not Jabba

    The more I play Heretic, the more it frustrates me

    I guess it kind of goes without saying from the person who built the rebalance mod, but I A) think that Heretic truly does have balance issues that need to be addressed for it to become a more fun and flexible game, and B) also think it's really great that it isn't the same as Doom, and that it's more slow and methodical like Fonze said. I like how even when you push the combat mechanics more towards the Doom end of the spectrum and use it to construct giant slaughter-lite fights across skillsawey map sprawls, it's still a different game with a different philosophy that you have to think about differently than Doom. People have given me a lot of suggestions for how to make Wayfarer's Tome more divergent from vanilla Heretic, but it's always been important to me that it is a mostly subtle balance mod. It doesn't take that much to make Heretic a smoother, better game, and I would really love to see people do a lot more with it. I think there's sort of an odd dichotomy still between the Doomers who dismiss Heretic as "worse Doom" and won't play anything created for it vs. the die-hard classic Heretic people who still want Heretic maps to only be designed around very narrow ideas about what the game is "supposed to be" based on the hyper-specificity of how the vanilla game is assembled (seriously, I've had people tell me I'm "doing it wrong" for everything from large-scale combat and rebalancing down to the order in which keys are placed in a map or being able to hear roaming monsters before you see them). It's been very hard to please anyone with a middle ground, but I hope the game will continue to grow and that people will continue the slowly increasing trend of finding cool new things to do with it, as I think the world and mechanics are really interesting.
  11. Not Jabba

    Are there any M31 M32 replacements that are good?

    I don't think there are any notable wads that replace *just* those two maps, but if you find two maps you want to replace them with, you could compile your own pretty easily with a small amount of knowledge about the Slade editing tool and how wads work. If you want something that feels like a natural fit, I would suggest m31 and m32 of Doom 2 the Way id Did, which are based on Commander Keen instead of Wolfenstein.
  12. The final /idgames release was, but the RCs were in 2019.
  13. It's the right time of year for my "You Have to See This One Really Cool Thing" Edition, a roundup of smaller releases that have one particularly neat design feature or fill an unusual niche. For those keeping track, it also marks the end of my 2019 coverage, at least for the forseeable future. I haven't even come close to covering everything—I never got around to Adonis, Sinergy, Ultimate Doom the Way id Did, Czechbox, Mayhem 19, franckFRAG's release dump, or a number of other projects I played last year that are good enough to write about. Unfortunately, I don't have the time or energy to cover everything, and I'll just have to leave them for other people as I focus on the things that excited me the most personally and that I have the most to say about. Fortunately, there's quite a bit of review coverage these days! I may try to sweep through a couple more 2017-2018 reviews before the next season starts, and for next year I'm planning to go back further and start writing about unawarded projects from the full history of Doom, which means I probably won't be covering as many new releases. Whatever the year brings, I hope you enjoy the reviews! Moonlight by @dobu gabu maru Moonlight is a pure puzzle map with no monsters, so it's not surprising that it comes from the creator of The Given, the greatest Doom puzzle map of all. Moonlight goes a bit more alien than that, though, in that it basically has no Doom mechanics at all except for occasional switch pressing to select answers to the questions the environment leaves for you to solve. Whereas most puzzles in The Given are heavily designed around Doom's interactive actions—raising and lowering floors, height variations, teleportation, etc.—the ones in Moonlight are based around cryptology, interpreting images and learning coded languages that are scattered around the space. In other words, you can't really use Doom-related skills to solve anything, and instead you'll need a pen and paper handy and skills that you probably need to have learned from outside the game. You might say that Moonlight is a game designed and theoretically played on paper and merely transplanted into the Doom engine (and I have heard this argument made), but I don't think that's quite right. There's a beauty and a feeling of simulation to it that you couldn't have outside of a video game, even though it does feel far more abstract than The Given. The sense of perspective that you gain by traversing a large playable space, of having the clues presented to you at life size and having to look around corners to find them in the first place, the sense that the environment and its images are lore that forms part of a world you're exploring, the gentle but faintly intrepid lull of the music—these are unique to the medium, unless of course you have the means to create a giant sculpture garden in your real-life five-hundred-acre yard. At the same time, the deceptive flatness of the black-and-white environment does recall the abstraction of paper, as though you've been sucked into a world that exists in two dimensions but takes on the appearance of three every time you move. It's a beautiful and ethereal map, and it makes me wish I had better puzzle chops; to this day, I haven't completed it. Most people don't know the full extent and the intrigue of dobu's collection of unfinished projects, but if you did, you'd probably be camped outside his house, holding up signs of encouragement and desperate for news. I've been there—I mean, not to his actual house, but still. It's wonderful that Moonlight was released, and we can only hope the rest will follow. Drought by @Tango Playing maps with gameplay mods that they weren't designed for is often a bit of a gamble, no matter how good the mod is, though of course not knowing exactly what to expect is part of the fun with mods. Mapsets designed specifically for existing mods are still a rare and pretty exciting thing, though they are becoming more popular; they showcase the best of what the mod has to offer and provide a sure bet for players who want to try out the mod in a balanced context. Drought was designed for last year's incredibly popular Doom 4 Vanilla, which it includes built-in. The whole point of this mod is the speed and ferocity of its gameplay, which combines the deadly abilities and individual power of New Doom's monsters with the highway-legal player speed and higher monster counts of classic Doom. The result is almost overwhelming but wildly fun, especially in Tango's hands. Drought feels similar to the way Tango handles his own Supercharge mod in Paradise—intensely lethal, capable of going from zero to sixty in an instant, and so fast-flowing that the onslaughts often hit you before you really know to expect them—but with the distinct flavor of the D4V mod, where monsters can suddenly leap across the room and rip off your face or OH MY GOD JETPACK REVENANTS. Map 03 is also particularly gorgeous, thanks to all the bright autumnal vines densely draped around its pale architecture. Toxin Refinery Remake by @Guardsoul The fact that this map doesn't really even have a name may say a lot about what players will like or dislike about it. Its identity is strongly and fully grounded in the map it's based on, and it plays a little more as a straight remake rather than a reimagining that echoes the original, like Z1M3 was. Though the latter approach will ultimately be seen as more memorable and unique, that doesn't mean there's anything wrong with the former, and this particular remake is impressively good at what it sets out to do. Every location from the original map has been scaled up and given a makeover so that it looks much more attractive and modern, but the gameplay is still pretty streamlined (and you might say form still follows function, if you're into that sort of thing). The map makes good use of special effects as well, particularly the subtle steam clouds drifting in certain areas along with good old-fashioned sparks from broken machinery, translucent forcefields, and some very nice advanced lighting. Everything is done really tastefully, and the design feels clean almost to a fault—which is the exact right choice if you're going to adhere to the source material fairly closely, at least when the source material is Romero. There are some layout and progression changes to keep it fresh as well; interestingly, I think at least some of the new additions may be based on areas from Z1M3, giving them the same style of remake as the areas from the IWAD. The monster count is high and the hitscanners can sting a bit, but they are all stock E1 monsters, so it's not much harder than the original map and is pretty fun to blast through. As a single map in isolation, it's head-turning enough, but it feels like it's only a smaller piece of a project; it would be pretty neat to see an entire episode of this sort of treatment—or, better still, a completely original mapset in a similar style. Saltwater by @meapineapple Saltwater is mostly about ambiance, but it's about other things too. The setting alone is pretty interesting: you start out at your little cabin by a lighthouse, there's some heavy dusky repaletting in the sky and water to make it look like sunset, and the light levels are dim to match. Flocks of gulls hang in suspended animation overhead, and the "music" is purely ambient, just the calls of the gulls and the gentle sound of waves crashing on the shore. Across the water from where you start is a mysterious brick mansion; a convenient teleporter by the lighthouse takes you over there after you deal with a lone Pinky, and you spend either most or all of the remainder of the map parsing out the secrets of the mansion and clearing out its inhabitants, depending which exit you take. It seems simple enough at first, though the heavy teleport ambushes give you a fair amount to deal with, with combat that mostly revolves around Imps and Hell Nobles flooding your space, punctuated with a handful of pretty tricky Arch-Viles. But after you're seemingly done, you realize you've got about 80 more monsters and six secrets to go, and you can spend the rest of your time (or not, if you take the easy exit) hunting for the hidden passages and layered secrets that make up the rest of the map and ultimately return you home—and the twilit ambiance that was such a natural choice for the map's quiet start helps to carry you through to the ending and the odd feeling of peace that it brings. An unusual and interesting map all around. Concrete Rage by @Dutch Doomer "Casual" is a bit of a lost art. Sure, you have people who like their gameplay really hard and people who like it less hard, but modern mapping is almost universally characterized by constant pressure through moderate/heavy incidental combat that never lets up, regardless of how difficult a map ultimately is. People don't seem to want a break to stop and smell the roses. True casual was more of a 2000s thing, and though I've heard some challenge-lovers declare otherwise, it's not the same as being mindlessly easy. It's more like mindfully easy—very deliberate and even sort of zen-like in nature. Dutch Devil was one of the master mappers of that era, and although he's a versatile mapper who's produced tougher maps as well, Concrete Rage captures a lot of that zen. This map has a decent number of monsters, but you're not constantly engaged and are rarely in serious danger. Like many maps of the 2000s, though, it's pleasant and satisfying to play. You start with the weakest monsters and slowly climb the bestiary as you work your way through the 240-ish enemies on the map until you end up with a few Barons, a few Revenants, an Arachnotron laying down cover fire, and the obligatory Lone Ending Arch-Vile. Being able to gun down everything quickly with your shotguns and chaingun makes it easy to appreciate the small things, like how carefully each monster is placed in the environment or how the rarer mid-tiers feel like they have more weight—or, most of all, the very fine craft of the architecture, which is probably the nicest thing about the map. It's actually very difficult to pull this sort of design off convincingly—to make every decision feel intentional when the player is moving slowly enough to notice everything, and to maintain the zen of the player experience without becoming dull—in some ways, more difficult than making a map that feels intense or challenging, because of the amount of discipline required. In any case, Concrete Rage is a very nice way to spend fifteen minutes. Give yourself a break and try it out. Pumpkin Hell by @Jimmy Speaking of old-school casual, of all the mappers active now, Jimmy is probably the one who understands it the best, though his implementation is a fair bit more Scythey compared to Dutch Devil's. Pumpkin Hell is a Boom-compat map, but it's spiritually pretty similar to the GZ-based Mercury Rain, in that it exists to explore a distinct visual theme and offers up mostly chill gameplay to accompany it. This particular theme is quite cute—basically just a faux-spooky pumpkin-orange version of classic Hell, complete with bright orangeade liquids and a cool jack-o-lantern landscape sky. Gravestones and glowing jack-o-lantern decorations add the finishing touch to most of the map's more interesting vistas, and the theme is driven home with a few little extra touches like pumpkin keys and, unsurprisingly for a Jimmy map, a custom MIDI that fits the mood perfectly. This sort of world-building and detail is exactly what's needed to bring out the best in casual maps, in my opinion; having an interesting world to engage your attention and gameplay that gives you room to fully appreciate the nuances of it is like peanut butter and jelly. Or pumpkin and spice, maybe? If you missed Pumpkin Hell when it came out, the timing is perfect, since Halloween is right around the corner.
  14. Not Jabba

    Doom Pictures Thread 2020

    Ha, I was just thinking about you and wondering if you were working on personal projects lately. Looks nice!