Friday, July 29, 2011

The Troopers' Playground (TTP.WAD)


Matthias Worch is one of those mysterious '96 mappers that wasn't prolific outside of the community projects, namely Memento Mori II and Requiem. He has a few solo releases, however. One is a tune-up of a WAD called Ring of Havoc by Jason Blevins. The other is a Doom II episode featuring among, other things, a new enemy. The WAD? The Troopers' Playground.

When playing TTP, I was struck by how...German it is, for lack of a better term. Most of the levels remind me of something the Moellers (TiC) would have done, but with tighter mapping and less easily-slaughtered hordes of zombimen. With the exception of three levels (done in a marble, then techbase, then boss shooter style), they're all in a similar theme, with new graphics to help make the maps pop. Interestingly, most of the new stuff blends in so well you'd hardly notice it if you weren't looking for it.


As far as monster layout, most of the toughs are used sparingly and cleverly. There's only one Cyberdemon, in fact, and he's not even that dangerous to confront. Worch succeeds in making virtually every other enemy threatening. The most lethal of all is his new creation, the evil trooper. He's a helmetless zombie in green armor that attacks with the Spider Mastermind's chaingun (and not the pictured rifle). He's more durable than a demon, and worst of all, begins to fire before his animation shows it, meaning he often clips you the second he sees you. You can't really lock him down with most attacks, so beware.


The enemy layout is amplified by Worch's use of mapping tricks to trap the player and deliver him unto evil. Monsters are usually a part of his devious equations, including some truly dastardly constructions involving the green trooper. They're all solvable, but you may often find yourself surprised. Traps utilizing the level's natural architecture are among the most memorable, transforming encounters from mere monster closets to something more organic.


The Trooper's Playground is an excellent mapset showcasing just how far a mapper can take Doom as an obstacle course. The evil trooper will keep you on your toes and the blend of regular beasties, tricks, and traps make otherwise ordinary encounters refreshing and unique. I can see why Worch and Thomas Moeller teamed up for MAP14 of Memento Mori II as their styles are quite complementary. If you finished the rest of The Innocent Crew's outpourings and want more, I heartily recommend this Doom II episode, though it's certainly worth playing on its own merits. Note that the WAD is slightly complicated to get running nowadays, and won't run as intended out of the box. To quote forum superstar VDGG's demo for MAP07,

  1. Download ttp103.zip from DSDA
  2. Extract the following files: TTP.WAD, TTP.DEH, and NWT.EXE. You should have DOOM2.WAD together with NWT.EXE and TTP.WAD in the same directory before proceeding to 3. TTP.WAD should have 2 368 237 bytes.
  3. Using command line, type:
    nwt -as TTP.WAD
    The new TTP.WAD should now have 5 908 347 bytes. Use this file for playback, and TTP.DEH as well.

This operation allows the WAD to run correctly in PrBoom-Plus (at least, that's what I played it in). Working correctly with ZDoom requires a bit more tinkering than possible with the files provided.

BONUS: Worch also included the first level he ever made for Doom II in the TTP103 package, labeled as TTPBONUS.WAD. It's aesthetically of lower quality than The Troopers' Playground but in terms of gameplay it's definitely comparable.



THE TROOPERS' PLAYGROUND
by Matthias Worch

MAP01Welcome
A very nice intro map that takes place on a dark brown metal fortress on a floating island. It's got a simple, intuitive layout that branches in two directions toward the yellow key and the red key. You need both to clear the map but you don't need to do them in any specific order. I wouldn't call any of the encounters truly memorable but there are a few good puzzles and I like the detail and lighting in the center room.

IntrusionMAP02
Steps the difficulty up. Same texturing theme but the level is a bit larger and has some nice fights, like the entire SSG sequence (masterfully designed) or the three switches, two of which lower barons into the room with you. It's about on par with MAP01 detail-wise but the use of columns and staircases help to keep the level looking fresh. There's also a neat callback to "The Focus" in the yellow key room. Progression is pretty linear. You're presented with a pathway and a key door; follow the pathway and you'll get the key to the door. Repeat til you're past the yellow door.

MAP03Simply Dead
Violent little affair with some non-linear tendencies. The entire level revolves around a small, "+" shaped room that serves as the main crossroads. The opening is pretty brutal, pitting you against a pain elemental with only a shotgun and a hostile buffer between it and you. Other highlights include a crusher room with a wall of switches you must activate to kill some caged barons that attempt to retaliate as well as a sewer section that at one point cages you, giving an evil trooper the opportunity for some pot shots. There's a couple neat secrets (each in a series) that help lessen the map's sting. Sadly, the climax is a bit underwhelming.

Going DownMAP04
A bit simpler, clustered level with a few great switchbacks and a good sense of progression. There's some odd tricks, like the blue key, and the sequence leading to the yellow one is a good series of structured encounters. The eastern half of the level is a tad more distinct with some fun ambushes and a secret leaving you with a backpack for the road. One of my favorite Worch levels so far.

MAP05Underground Temple
Switching gears to a green marble underground level. It's a bit more relaxed than some of the earlier levels. There are some great areas. The western wing is a series of obstacles leading to the blue key and its arch-vile guardian, though he's somewhat easy to take down. The eastern wing is unnecessarily gated but changes things up with some earthen textures and a nice spacious cavern. It also has some great fights, including the pit room featuring barons and cacos (and later, revenants). The whole process fills a depression in the middle of the grand opening hallway with blood, which opens up the side doors and grants access to the red key, leading to a welcome finale.

Deep Down BelowMAP06
Back to the Germanic style. It's an expansive (but not that difficult) level featuring mostly imps, hitscanners, and demons. Looking at the layout is more confusing than actually playing it, surprisingly. Among the more memorable moments include an extended red key puzzle in the style of keep-away, the atrium with the SSG that also houses all three key doors/switches, and a host of nifty secrets that are a joy to work out. True to form, there's a lot of criss-crossing and doubling back as the level begins to open up for you, with some areas drastically changing architecture (like the first room and the caco cage).

MAP07Three-o-Matic
A compact level evocative of Worch's earlier themes using the earthy base textures. Every encounter has been constructed in order to rob you of any advantage. The biggest bottleneck here, for instance, involves a pair of arch-viles warping into a room that won't trigger until you walk deeper into hostile territory, and there's little cover besides the columns supporting the cast iron fence. The blue key isn't much better, pitting you against a pair of evil troopers that fire their weapons before their attack animations execute. Grabbing the berserk pack puts you betwixt a pair of chaingunners. Overall, it's a very challenging map. The finale is simply handled; the tough part is getting there. My favorite sequence is the whole bit involving the western wing and a staircase you lower to proceed and then raise when you need to leave.

The LeavingMAP08
A vast map in an uncharacteristically techbase style. There's some out of place organics to be found but it's mostly starbase stuff with some interesting quirks, like the puzzle to the yellow key sequence, and even more so the red key, which you expect to be a trap, but it's buried below an invisible floor. The map is stuffed with monsters, mostly easy encounters, but if your eyes glaze over you'll get caught on the chin, or fall prey to some of the tougher Hellspawn. Sadly, only the shotgun and chaingun can be found here, and while the map is loaded down with plasma and even some rockets, neither of their respective weapons (nor the SSG) make an appearance. While the level isn't that much more difficult for their absence, it does drag the pace when starting with pistol. Other commendable features: the way the central elevator hub room plays out and the short romp on the outside that helps break the scenery up.

MAP09Deliverance?
Your standard boss-shooter map, though very blandly laid-out. It's optimized for co-op, with four different angles on a head that rises and falls on a lift, so everyone can focus on their section of the map when the head isn't in view. You really don't need to time your shots, though. Just pumping the hole full of rockets will catch Romero with enough splash damage for him to croak.

BONUS MAP

TTPBONUS.WADMAP01
This is a rather serviceable Doom II level that's lacking in detail but has a few neat fights, like the demons in the dark or the rather sinister final encounter. Worch is also adept at using demons to pressure the player in cramped spaces. There's a few nice areas like the southwestern sewer maze or the library room. It's also a somewhat nonlinear map. You reach a T-junction fairly early on. One way leads to the yellow key and the other raises the stairs to the yellow key door. It doesn't really matter which order you do them in, but it's nice to be able to choose.

BODIES FILL THE FIELDS I SEE, HUNGRY HEROES' END
NO ONE TO PLAY SOLDIER NOW, NO ONE TO PRETEND
RUNNING BLIND THROUGH KILLING FIELDS, BRED TO KILL THEM ALL
VICTIM OF WHAT SAID SHOULD BE, A SERVANT 'TIL I FALL

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

13 comments:

  1. Great fun to read a review of this over 15 years after the fact. Those levels were made when we were young, naive, and fully enjoying ourselves :) I think map03 was the second SP level I ever made (after the TTPBonus one), then followed map08 and map06.

    As a side node, I think the NWT merge didn't work 100%, some of those grey flats in the screenshots look out of place and were supposed to be metal ceilings instead. Thanks for keeping the Doom spirit alive!

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    1. Ah, the perils of using ancient software. It would be cool if this could be repackaged for ease of use with today's source ports, but such is Doom. Thank you for the comment!

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    2. I think I got it to run as intended with Chocolate Doom 1.7, which seems to be a bit smoother than vanilla at least, so try that if interested.

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  2. Ah, MAP06 is so familiar...I knew I seen before! Oh yes, it can also be found on Requiem!

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  3. When I follow your instructions with PRBoom-Plus, I get a bad texture: a tan and red texture on the floor at the start of Map05 (not the only place it appears). There is supposed to be a grey and white checkerboard like floor there.

    Do you get the same texture or is the floor at the start of Map05 proper for you and if so what version of PRBoom-Plus are you using?

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    Replies
    1. According to Worch, my stuff is jacked up, and I don't really care to try and correct it as doing so would require jumping through DOSBox hoops and playing with ancient software. I'm glad you found a compromise that worked, though. More importantly, these comments brought to my attention the fact that my MAP01 screenshot was jacked up, and has since been fixed.

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    2. Just for what it's worth, Chocolate Doom doesn't require DOSBox.

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    3. Uh I was speaking for NWT.EXE and building TTP.WAD, not Choco Doom

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    4. Yeah I had to use DOSBox there. Too bad Andy Olivera neglected to give this wad the Obituary treatment.

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  4. Hello, vdgg here. Far too late, I guess.
    I noticed some comments about flats not being rendered properly and that's right, unfortunately. I missed that as it didn't bother me much on MAP07.

    If after "nwt -as TTP.WAD" (which fixes SPRITES) you type "nwt -af TTP.WAD" (F for FLATS) I have a new ttp.wad (6,471,819 bytes) and some new flats appear. You can notice them easily at the start of MAP05 (floor) or MAP08 (ceiling). Hope this helps at least one PrBoom+ user.

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    Replies
    1. Whoops! Whenever I retake screenshots for the article update I'll be sure to make sure that the PWAD is properly rebuilt, thanks for the info

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  5. Just a heads up: there is now a proper fixed version just like Obituary. I contacted Andy once again a month ago regarding this and he fixed the wad. Many thanks for that!

    BTW if you wonder what happened to my Google account, let's just say I deleted it.

    -FistMarine

    ReplyDelete