Dec. 25th, 2018 09:10 pm
davidn: (prince)
I should begin recording my finished projects here again as well! Here's one of them. It's something that started as a side project and then consumed my life for two and a half months.

This is my own reworking of the ZDoom mod "Brutal Doom", which was released a few years ago and added a ton of new more violent and spectacular material to the base Doom game. Unfortunately its complexity (not to mention the way that it was made from a ton of different other mods jammed together in a big ball of duct tape) makes it extremely difficult to comprehend and work with. This more lightweight edition that I've christened "BDLite" completely reworks the monsters, weapons and effects so that the faster and more aggressive take on Doom is still intact, but jettisons the extraneous things and makes the code easier to build on. I wrote it specifically as a base for my own project "Vulkan" (which I'll re-release soon) but I'm hoping it will also be useful to other ZDoomers - and it's fun to play with on its own as well.

This is the thread on the ZDoom forums about the mod's development - the people in the community are great! Oddly for such a famously hellish and violent game, it's one of the most friendly and helpful communities I've been in online - perhaps due to a higher age and level of maturity than the Internet on average. Elsewhere, I saw some other fan of the original Brutal Doom describing my own mod as "a spiteful attempt to "clean up" Brutal Doom by tearing out about half the stuff and tossing themselves off over how much better they think they are" and I was ready to get all offended about it but then realized that that description is 100% accurate and put it at the top of the site as a ringing endorsement.

If you'd like to try playing Doom with this, you can download it from its own page here, including a boatload of tools that assist in ZDoom mod making that I might clean up and release separately. You'll need GZDoom and one or more of the Doom or FreeDoom WADs.
davidn: (Default)
People have been a bit surprised in the past when I mention my love of Doom, but having grown up with shareware on the PC, it was really the flagship game that PCs could do that consoles couldn't (thinking of the 16-bit ports as evidence here). Recently I've got heavily back into its modding community, with source ports like GZDoom adding much more extensive scripting and external asset support to transform it into a ZZT-like base for creating entirely new games from the engine - from transformations like Brutal Doom to recreations of The Crystal Maze. The 2016 remake passed me by at the time, but since I poured some cash into upgrading my bought-in-2003 PC of Theseus to a state where it's capable of playing games made this decade, I wanted to give it a try.

I enjoyed it a lot in the end, but apart from the game's Martian setting and the story (which has been adapted to trying to harness power from Hell instead of accidentally reaching it through a teleportation experiment) it didn't really gel with me as a direct sequel to the original Doom games. Instead, it's more like Samus Goes to Mars (and Forgets her Valium) - you explore, shoot and find or earn upgrades for your base stats, abilities, weapons and so on. The hopelessly generic box art depicts your main character, who is a mute not-quite-human who ascended from Hell and who clearly hasn't masturbated in about a hundred years. All of his actions are done with a comical degree of aggression, from picking up a weapon upgrade from a Ratchet and Clank-style floating service droid then punching it in the face, to "disabling" a delicate piece of power equipment by kicking it repeatedly. His Sim City transport advisor-style fury is of course central to the gameplay, which is about surviving wave after wave of large hordes of demons with a variety of big guns or by tearing them to pieces.

After a few levels where I was tentatively unsure about the game, I found myself getting into it at around the first time that you're pulled into Hell - I attribute this mostly to beginning to understand how the game's secrets were hidden, and exploration beginning to feel like it was rewarded like in the original Doom games. Until this point I'd also felt the melee-fighting Glory Kill system was too over the top and grisly and pulled the action away from the hands of the player, but I definitely appreciated the one where you slap the Pinky across the face with its own pelvis and it just dies of embarrassment. It's a strange comparison, but instead of the pure first-person shooting of the original game, the idea of terminating demons in ridiculous flashy ways and then earning points from them to unlock more stylish slaughter methods is very much like Devil May Cry.

It's around this point that I also began to notice small callbacks to 1993 games - just like in E3M1 Hell Keep, you enter Hell by pushing on a skull to open an inverted door. The post-fight music for the level also recreates the wailing guitar part of E1M8 Phobos Anomaly's music with a haunting choir, right at the very end. And there's a moment during the credits where the Doom marine is fighting off a chaotic mound of demons in hell, and the camera swings round as the action progresses to momentarily capture a perfect echo of the original Doom box art. I also appreciated the option to place your weapon unnaturally in the lower centre of the screen like it's mounted to your chest like a Dalek - these subtle references to the original game are fantastic.

The more blatant references to the original game, however, are not - every level has a secret lever that will open a hatch to a strange out-of-place area from the 90s Doom games in it, and then you get the chance to play through the classic level from the game menu. These are realized completely terribly - I remember being worried about them when they were first previewed, and I was absolutely right to be, because if the rest of the game were like these it would be terrible. All lighting has been removed, making the levels look much worse than they used to (which I sort of understand, as harsh sector lighting would look weird in the modern engine), textures are on backwards, switches flicker for no reason when they're pressed, and doors don't interact with players or enemies correctly - if you stand under one when it's closing you'll get trapped inside it. Not to mention they've had to put up invisible walls in certain areas to avoid the player abusing the non-1993 ability to jump. It's cobbled-together fanservice and it doesn't work at all - thankfully the rest of the game is much better.

I'd like to have played multiplayer as well, but the population seems to have all but dried up - I waited around in the Beginner lobby for ages and I only ever saw one other person there, and you need a minimum of four to get a game going. Perhaps other people on my Steam list might be interested? Much has also been made of the Snapmap feature, which is a reasonable compromise to allow players to create their own missions while not expecting or allowing them to create the ludicrous level of detail that would be required to completely customize a modern map, but as far as I can tell it does much the same as Timesplitters 2 did many years ago on the PS2.

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