Friday, July 15, 2011

99 Ways to Die (99WAYS.WAD)

In 1996, Doomers everywhere eagerly anticipated the release of id Software's next project, Quake. Among other things, Quake featured 3D light sources, making realistic and attractive lighting far easier to execute than Doom's sector-based method, which often required painstaking work in order to simulate equivalent lighting. In the wake of Quake's previews, Warren Marshall released a short minisode for Doom II, intending to show just how far Doom's engine could be pushed. The .TXT has just a hint of desperation, almost pleading for Doom mappers to not jump ship for the new technological superior. While 1997 would show an exodus of many of Doom's most prominent mappers from '94-'96, anyone can see that the Doom mapping community continues to go strong. I'm not sure what effect 99 Ways to Die had on lighting standards, but I think Marshall made his point effectively.

99WAYS.WAD has only three maps to its name (though evidence suggests the levels are three pieces of a larger, single map). They're short, simple affairs, with the odd tough section. They're also very reminiscent of Quake, taking place within a large, light-brown castle that's been cut into three sections. According to Marshall, the barebones plot involves four arch-viles who have taken over the castle, and your objective is to kill them and reclaim it. The maps aren't difficult, though the latter two can be interesting when starting from pistol. The true star of the show is Marshall's attention to lighting, which he admits accounts for half of the development time.

You may not initially pick up on the differences. Rather than Quake's interminable darkness, the levels are each reasonably well lit. Every light source has been thoroughly mapped out, however, and you can see the shadows cast by every window frame; you can see lights illuminate the brightest on one section of the wall and then fade out to the sides. MAP03 even features the silhouettes cast by the short walls you walk behind. It's a gorgeous but subtle change from standard lighting fare.

I wish Marshall had released more maps. 99 Ways to Die shows a good grasp on gameplay, serviceable architecture and detailing, and absolutely stunning lighting. I can only wonder what he would have done with maps where lighting created more more contrast, like Quake. Then again, after a quick search on Google, it looks like he switched to Quake anyways! No matter. The Doom community is all the better for his offering.

by Warren Marshall

Very simple brown castle level that fits perfectly into the MAP01 slot. It's relaxed, only a couple of moments that might surprise you with chaingunners, and has an optional yellow door behind which are the toughest baddies the map has to offer, your reward being some very excellent goodies to bring to the next map. The lighting isn't too distinctive but when you notice it it looks great. There's some neat bits of architecture, like the chaingunner windows overlooking the staircase, or the castle exterior / immediate interior, the standout view, really.

Another very serviceable castle section that builds off the original map. It's a bit plain but it has a few nice details, like the nukage (and nukage secret) and the pillar pathway room, very nice. The encounter ante is upped a bit here and it's an interesting exercise as a pistol start. The SSG is located in an optional area but when you grab it you've pretty much got the level in the bag, and its guardians are pretty easily disposed. The secret room has a nice bit where Marshall leaks a bunch of lost souls into the room. You may accidentally miss the best encounter (it isn't opened up until you're at the exit switch, but it's close by).

The largest and perhaps toughest of the levels, a fitting finale. There are a few more memorable areas, like the two courtyards leading to the red key building (which triggers a very nice firefight), the entire eastern section of the map with a nice waterfall style secret, and a memorable elevator fight (that's very easy to cheese). If you're starting from pistol, you'll have to come back to clear out the worst of the red key ambush, but you're otherwise loaded for bear. The final fight is pretty easy, all things considered, even though it's two mancubuses and two arch-viles. The layout is very conducive to cover and the fatsos really get their bosses' attention. I kind of wish it was a bit better detailed; the flesh tower alone doesn't quite cut it. Technical note: You'll have to make your way to the exit room on your own as I believe a column with a beating heart on it blocks the exit end of the teleporter.

This post is part of a series on
Doomworld's Top 10 WADs of 1996

Memento MoriMemento Mori II
Dystopia 3: Re-Birth of AnarchyAll Hell is Breaking Loose
Army of Darkness DoomIcarus: Alien Vanguard
Polygon Base99 Ways to Die
The Troopers' PlaygroundA Hidden Mountain Factory

1 comment:

  1. Just finished playing 99 Ways to Die. A nice 3-level mini episode.

    HOWEVER I found out that the teleporter at end of MAP03 doesn't work. I thought it was because I was using Eternity but then I went to idgames and read comments and found out that the teleporter doesn't work only on UV! And because I played on UV, it didn't work. So I had to restart the level on HMP with pistol only (I used warp parameter). I managed to complete the level normally after that. You should update the review to reflect that, it may help others as well.