Monday, October 22, 2012

Final Doom


Final Doom was id's last commercial expansion in the Doom II style until No Rest For the Living...which still isn't available separately from the Doom II packages in any legal sense. As far as contemporary video game reviews went, Final Doom was panned. It wasn't Doom III, in that Doom III would have ostensibly added more monsters, textures, and possibly weapons to the already aging Doom engine. It also got criticized for the same reasons Doom II was slagged, in that it was still using the Doom engine and the same gameplay fundamentals, albeit in radically different fashions from author to author (more notably from IWAD to IWAD). It was just two new thirty-two map replacements for Doom II, TNT: Evilution and The Plutonia Experiment. Quake was hot on Final Doom's heels, published all but five days later, and the entire industry was "moving on".

Yet, here we are, with two critically-acclaimed Plutonia tributes, one Evilution tribute in the works, and hundreds of levels designed with these mapsets in mind. Final Doom has left its stamp on the Doom community, with Plutonia influencing notions of encounter design and Team TNT (The New Technology) creating a stable of relatively approachable megaWADs - not just Evilution - for the average player. Rest assured that these levels will continue to spring forth from the heads of map authors until the Doom community is completely and totally dead, which might be awhile, considering that a game with this amount of longevity and moddability is an industry nightmare.

It all started innocently enough. Some dudes on a Doom editing mailing list started talking about making a megaWAD. Up until that point, full Doom II replacements were unheard of. H2H-Xmas and the first Memento Mori were on the way but were going to be more or less contemporary releases...had Evilution not been picked up by id. The night before its scheduled release on October 24th, 1995, John Romero on behalf of id offered to buy the megaWAD so that id could sell it. Spoiler: yeah, they sold it, though until the deal was finalized they couldn't announce exactly who they were selling it to. Lots of folks thought Evilution was going against id in that independent authors weren't supposed to commercialize Doom WADs, but once the terms were established and disclosed, the majority of the peeved people became those who were expecting something for what had previously been nothing.

The cruel joke of the matter is this: Evilution's purchase began a grueling playtesting process that delayed its release until June 17th of the next year. Icarus: Alien Vanguard, TNT's free-to-play followup, was published in March of that year. The focus was on trimming the lengthier levels down or creating new ones to replace some entirely from scratch. Among the axed were levels that made their way into Plutonia. How many, I don't know. According to Dario, four of their TNT submissions were cut. Dario and Milo made an 8-map episode which they apparently mailed to American McGee who decided to contract them to develop a 32-map replacement in four months. According to Halderman, "a couple" of the levels that weren't selected for Evilution ended up in Plutonia. Whatever happened is anyone's guess.

So, yes. The Plutonia Experiment was developed at the same time Evilution was being rejiggered for commercial release. It's a different beast from its sister project, being the output of two authors as opposed to Team TNT's widespread contributors. Dario and Milo pushed out the other 24 levels in a few months, after which they were sick of the level design process. Fortunately, id accepted the finished product exactly as it was delivered. I guess they didn't feel the need to tinker with it, perhaps a testament to the professionalism of the Casalis' design tempered with a knowledge of id's targeted system specs. Or maybe they were just as tired of polishing Doom levels as everyone else, what with Quake on the way. Regardless, when all was said and done, id bundled Evilution together with Plutonia and released them as the Final Doom we know and love.

id was even more opportunistic than Final Doom suggests, though. Tom Mustaine, one of the major players of Team TNT, was developing his own megaWAD at the same time, Perdition's Gate. Like Plutonia, it was another family affair, this one in tandem with his father, Bob Mustaine. Tom contacted Shawn Green and id would have bought it if they had finished it in time. They didn't, though. Rather than let a good megaWAD go to waste, Mustaine brought Perdition's Gate over to his good buddy Jim Elson, another important TNT person. Elson had gotten together with Jimmy Sieben - yet another TNT guy - and alongside Mackey McCandlish they were making Hell to Pay, yet another megaWAD. They called themselves Wraith Corp and had bought a license from id to peddle their PWAD, which would be distributed by WizardWorks. Each project helped the other to completion and both became licensed (but not supported) releases.

Final Doom is still available today via various sundry services. Most prominently, it's available via Steam for the low, low price of five bucks. If id published another pair of megaWADs of the same caliber today, I would personally consider five bucks as being dirt cheap. I know the community is used to a limitless cornucopia of free user-made content, but I can't resist the lure of more megaWADs. Maybe you agree; maybe you don't. I think Evilution and Plutonia are worth purchasing. Evilution may not be up to the current production standards enjoyed by the community but I think it's worth a gander. It grinds my gears at times but I like it for what it is. Plutonia is the main draw, of course, the inspiration of more maps than you can shake a shotgun at, setting the bar for Doom II difficulty until the advent of Hell Revealed. Only you can decide whether these community-produced works are worth the price of admission.


This article is part of a series on id's
(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


  1. Regarding TNT: "Up until that point, full Doom II replacements were unheard of."

    Definitely close but I'm not quite sure if that's 100% correct. I've spotted three possible exceptions. First is technically not a FULL replacement, but it's BF_THUD! at 29 levels already reviewed on here. Second is 'Enjay's Doom II' which says in the text file it was originally dated December 1994. Finally there's 'Marswar' (by Nathan Lineback) which says the original (first) release was at some point in 1995, so it's possible. (That said neither were actually put on /idgames at their time of release, but I have no idea if they were distributed elsewhere online or in shovelware.) I've left download URLs to both below:

    Marswar (v3.01, original version not available but date is mentioned in txt file):

    Enjay's Doom II:

    1. BF_THUD! and Enjay Doom II are both stitched together from the earlier works of the authors, with BF_THUD! approximate to the episodic releases of Base Ganymede, or Demonfear. NJ Doom has seen so many editions I'm not even sure where to start with that. Lastly, from what I can gather the full version of Marswar wasn't even completed until the 1998 release. You could email Nathan about that - his webpage is still up - but I don't care.

    2. The latest edition of NJ Doom is Enjay's ZDoom 2001. Some of his oldest maps have been completely replaced with new maps. All have undergone substantial architectural modifications.

      There's also Enjay ZDoom (without the 2001), which has different secret levels than 2001 and a little less 'ZDoom detail' but is very close otherwise.

      Prior to that is Enjay Doom II, which still has some older maps that were completely ditched, and far less detail in the existing maps compared to Enjay ZDoom (2001).

      Prior to that is Enjay Doom I, which is for Doom I and every map in it except E3M1 was reused in Enjay Doom II (that's because E3M1 was the base of E3M9 which was reused), except with Doom II features added and possibly minor improvements.

      And at the very, very bottom of the stairwell is 'Come out Fighting' and 'Enjay's Shores of Hell', which are Episodes 1 and 2 of Enjay Doom I respectively minus a few small changes that were made for the megawad.

      ...and that's it. Yeah, Enjay's Doom/Doom II/ZDoom has quite a long, complex history and it took me quite some time to trace the whole evolution out myself.

    3. Well I knew about that. My point is that NJ Doom wasn't originally released as a full replacement

    4. I just thought that if you are ever going to do a review of anything in the NJ Doom series, and wanted to detail the background, that my explanation here might make it a bit easier, given just how many 'revisions' the thing went through. Nothing else.

    5. Well, I know because at some point Enjay went over the whole thing, including how he pieced the megaWADs together, which you may not be able to find because you're currently banned.