Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Wraith Corp MegaWADs: Perdition's Gate and Hell to Pay


WRAITH CORPORATION
PERDITION'S GATEHELL TO PAY

Wraith Corp. published two megaWADs back in '96, the same year as Final Doom (among other things). Interestingly enough, both works were intertwined with Evilution. Tom Mustaine, Jimmy Sieben, L.A. Sieben, and Jim Elson were all part of Team TNT. I don't know the exact sequence of events, but according to Tom Mustaine, he and his dad Bob started Perdition's Gate during the same period of time the Casalis were developing The Plutonia Experiment. Their intent was to sell it to id as a third megaWAD, making Final Doom a trilogy of sorts. They weren't as fast (or as prompt) as Dario and Milo, though, so when Shawn Green told them their time had run out, they brought Perdition's Gate over to Wraith Corp.


Wraith Corp was headed by Jim Elson, one of the behind-the-scenes players at Team TNT and the organizer of the lesser-known H2H-Xmas, a product of the H2H network, presumably where he knew Jimmy Sieben from. According to authoritative accounts, Wraith Corp had gotten a license from id to release their commercial Doom add-on, Hell to Pay, which they were going to publish via WizardWorks, previously notorious for their D!Zone shovelware (frontend designed by Joe "Sillysoft" Wilcox, designer of Xmas Doom, the inspiration for H2H-Xmas, which he also helped with). In a show of mutual support, Tom helped to put the finishing touches on Hell to Pay while Wraith Corp worked on finishing the rest of the Perdition's Gate levels.


Both PERDGATE and HELL2PAY draw from the same well as Evilution in that they reflected a trend in the PWAD community - only natural, really - that combined the horrors of Hell with the vast unknown of space. Doom's basic assumption was that the demons were relatively limited in how they could attack. As it turns out, they haven't just been in another dimension. Demons are present in the universe. In Evilution, they arrive via their own kind of Hellish ship. In Perdition's Gate, they conquered another advanced civilization, one that constructed a series of gates across the universe (fargates, not stargates). In Hell to Pay, they're entrepreneurial enough to enslave the human race, originating from a physical planet you eventually set foot on.


Unlike Final Doom, the Wraith Corp megaWADs were released separately. Also unlike Final Doom, the Wraith Corp megaWADs are no longer available via conventional methods. They are owned by Atari, more or less. Well, WizardWorks had publishing rights. Then it got bought by GT Interactive, incidentally the publishers of a ton of classic FPSs, including Doom II. Then Infogrames got controlling interest in the company, who renamed it Infogrames, Inc.. Infogrames bought the Atari name and properties and somewhere down the line renamed Infogrames Inc. to Atari Inc.. Eventually, Infogrames bought the rest of Atari Inc. and swallowed the company.


In January of 2013, Atari Inc. filed for bankruptcy protection and separation from its parent company, which incidentally put talks for the release of Blood's source code in Purgatory. It also means that any brave soul willing to brave the corporate jungle to coax the Atari tribe into releasing the Wraith Corp megaWADs as freeware (a la the free but unsupported Apogee legacy releases) has a tough road ahead of them. I really wish Atari would just give it up. Or, at the very least, get in touch with someone like Good Old Games, who were even able to untangle the infamous System Shock 2 ownership, and have digital distribution rights to a heck of a lot of stuff. As long as Perdition's Gate and Hell to Pay got some legitimate source for interested parties, I'd be happy.


The Wraith Corp megaWADs are more infamous than influential, unlike the comparatively lauded Final Doom. Hell to Pay is notorious for its monster replacement graphics (3D pre-renders from Mackey McCandlish). Perdition's Gate looks a lot better overall with some really sweet graphics but has endured criticism for shorter than average levels, which is true, though not something that inherently counts against it. Both feature some fantastic special effects that would be worth the price of admission back in '96 - unlike Final Doom - and if you're at all capable of appreciating vanilla mapmaking they're worth seeing today. They are also moderately story driven, with the tally screen graphics replaced by blurbs (and depictions) discussing the action of the narrative as you battle Hell again and again.


I think that the only reason the Wraith Corp megaWADs aren't recognized alongside the other greats of the '96-'97 era is the fact that, unlike Final Doom, they're difficult to ethically get a hold of nowadays unless you watch eBay like a hawk for second-hand purchases. They're also misunderstood as being illegal, but they're just as legal as HACX was, except Banjo Software was able to release their TC as freeware further down the line. Personally, I think they're well worth your time, and if you can track them down to play them, you should. The demos alone do not do them justice. Its authors have since gone on to robust careers in the game dev industry that have both shaped and defined the modern FPS playing field, whatever that may mean to you.



THE OTHER FINAL DOOM


This article is part of a series on id's
ICONS OF SIN
DoomHeretic
(Thy Flesh Consumed)(Shadow of the Serpent Riders)
Doom IIHexen: Beyond Heretic
Master Levels for Doom II(Deathkings of the Dark Citadel)
Final DoomChex Quest
TNT: EvilutionThe Plutonia ExperimentStrife: Quest for the Sigil
Console DoomThe Wraith Corp MegaWADs
Doom 64Perdition's GateHell to Pay
No Rest For the LivingHACX

2 comments:

  1. Thank you so much for this information. I'd never heard of these until I came to your site a week ago. You really stoked my interest, so I made a post about the Wraithcorp Megawads on Doomworld. The response was generally positive to enthusiastic: people who played the megawads enjoyed them, although they agreed with you that Wraithcorp was not really a match for the Final Doom we actually got.

    I don't understand why companies hang on so determinedly to ancient products that don't make them any money; it's like the situation with Delta Green, or the ancient Slaves to Darkness books by the Games Workshop. Making or passing on copies of these works is strictly against the law, yet the only legal alternative is to go on eBay and pay £40-£200 to some collector, which doesn't even benefit the original publishers or authors.

    What would Atari (or whoever owns it now) stand to gain or lose if the Wraithcorp wads were traded for free? Same for the original creators of the megawads. I hear that id Software paid Team TNT a pittance for Evilution, then effectively cut them adrift afterwards, even removing the screens that showed their names. How much money or recognition would the Wraithcorp chaps have got? It's hard to imagine they would be paid royalties for continued sales, especially since Doom's popularity was officially starting to wane by the time Wraithcorp was released. - MajorRawne

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    1. The real man to get in touch with is Jim Elson, because as Gez pointed out in a thread not too terribly long ago, Wraith Corp retained copyrights to the actual contents of the megaWADs (the RAW.WAD files) and I am pretty sure that he still has it.

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