First, there were the vanilla Kesler maps, collected in KMEGA1. Then came the KBOOM levels, which Kesler almost discontinued due to bitching about his mapping for Boom, but wisely ignored. Finally, KZDOOM, where Kurt fudges around with ZDoom's advanced features. KZDOOM2 is - duh - the second of Kesler's experiments, this one with the unusual distinction of a title - "Cacodemons Revenge". There's actually a tiny intro and outro to this effect, plus a seemingly never-ending trickle of big red balls, so as far as story goes Kesler has absolutely delivered, with the exception that the cacodemons do not get their revenge. You're the fuckin' Doom marine, after all. If you played KZDOOM1 and had your stomach turn at some of the monster and sound changes, don't despair. The only real thing change here is the faster shotgun.
Carballo's Pick Me! utility throws me a softball for my first foray. Three of these levels are deathmatch, and three of them I've already played before in one form or another, so I decided to be generous and include my flamingo-up, since I misread SQUID22 as SQUID2 and played the original SQUID. My first /random test spawned TRENCH, so that's also thrown in at the end. All in all, a few hilarious levels mixed in with a playable retread of E1M1 and the pretty cool XENO11.
Daniel Griffiths was one of Doom's early custom contributors, though looking in the past it seems as though he tended more toward the side of deathmatch in his level design. Xenomorph is no exception, but the level's size gives it a bit more character on top of the fact that co-op play was factored in. That's not to say that the author gave single player a pass. In fact, you're encouraged to load it up and run around outside with God mode on to watch the light show. Why ruin a perfectly good game of dodgeball with cheat codes, though?
I am pretty darn sure that the same person who made Squid also made Squid 2. Both levels are E1M1 replacements that have the same bizarre 1980 time stamp, crude workarounds to deal with design staples that apparently hadn't been quite figured out, and optional areas locked behind yellow key doors that were presumably meant to power you up for the final conflict. Both showed up as Doom II conversions in Maximum Doom, but I would rather play the original, which I've done.
SQUID is an E1M1 replacement with an absurd timestamp dating to 1980, but its presence on Maximum Doom nails down its origin to 1995, at the very latest. I think that the author went on to make a sequel, SQUID2, which is about as hilariously dated as this old thing. Whoever made it, it's clear that some of the fundamental design elements we take for granted had not yet taken root, not that that's a bad thing. It just makes SQUID a perfect snapshot of the wild west days of PWADcraft.
Even the /idgames archive has standards. The first, of course, is "Don't upload anything that's based on or modified versions of the original levels of any of the id Software games." There are two assumptions behind the reason for this rule, but I can't remember which one is true. The first is legal in nature but doesn't make a whole lot of sense since no one should care if you upload a MAP01 edit that's crammed full of Cyberdemons. I mean, you still have to play it in Doom II, which is where MAP01 came from, though I admit the situation gets murky when Doom levels are getting converted into Doom II versions and uploaded, removing the need for DOOM.WAD. I prefer the second reason, that if /idgames had NOT restricted uploads of IWAD edits, we'd be up to our eyeballs in rehashed browns, turning the archives into a cesspool of "my first time fucking around in a map editor with an IWAD level", and it conveniently covers the legal reason in addition to quality control.
Lehrer and Tillier published Trench, a concept deathmatch level of sorts, very early on in Doom's history in May of 1994. It's an E1M1 replacement that's from a time when people still fancied populating deathmatch levels with monsters. The actual level is pretty small and has some twenty or so enemies as sergeants and imps, which are a mild annoyance in single player. I mean, you might get gunned down by shotgun snipers, but there isn't a whole lot of threat involved and all of the gameplay is concentrated in the two main tiers of play.
Doomed indeed. When id published the Master Levels for Doom II (release them as freeware already, you dicks!), they decided to do their own shovelware compilation, the now infamous Maximum Doom. The execution seems just as sloppy as any of the non-id PWAD scrapes, with missing .TXT files, Doom originals that were "converted" to Doom II via a cold, unfeeling utility, and amusing oversights like the inclusion of Heretic maps. I will say that it's a pretty good snapshot of what the user community was like at the time, a hot mess of sector savants and simpletons coming together in a blood tornado.
Since enough people have asked, I've decided to dip my toes in and see how the other half lives. I grabbed a copy of Maximum Doom and a utility by Matias Nahuel Carballo, called "Pick Me!". This won't be a regular thing, but I'm going to spin the wheel and write up the nine PWADs that come up. I won't be giving deathmatch levels proper reviews, and there's actually some overlap between the PWADs that I've already played and the stuff that's on Maximum Doom, so I'll give some brief summaries and link their reviews. Of invaluable worth is Funduke's Maximum Doom Reference guide. I'll be consulting it against every entry; some may consider the author to be the patron saint of /idgames dogshit, but I can't help but appreciate his stalwart chronicling of Doom's early days.
Also, while I'm sure it's an essential part of the Maximum Doom experience, I'm not going to play the shitty conversions unless I absolutely have to. Using Funduke's guide I've tracked down the originals, and that's what the reviews will be written on.