by Bob Reganess
Sunday, March 2, 2014
System Vices (SYSVICE1.WAD)
Bob Reganess was a somewhat experimental author from Doom's early period whose works would have been lost to the ravages of time with the death of Compuserve. Thankfully, Graham "Grazza" Burgess could archive his works due to a relatively open distribution clause. System Vices was probably his most ambitious project, a partial conversion featuring new textures, enemy / weapon graphics, and sounds. Released in '96, this eight-map episode probably had another installment coming - given that the filename is SYSVICE1.WAD - but it doesn't appear to have materialized. Too bad, because this is a pretty interesting outing on its own.
There is a story of sorts in the .TXT that mentions systems and vices and chaos and utopia in a vague sort of pulp science fiction fashion. The action takes place on the planet of Sverre, a place whose inhabitants love the thrill of the hunt, "killing and creating confusion". The author asserts that what you perceive as chaos is utopia to them, and then asks you "...if you are really true to your own beliefs. In other words... Who's side are you on?" It's a setup, of course. Reganess's description of the inhabitants of Sverre is evocative of the relationship between the players of Doom and the demons they hunt and that hunt the players themselves. If you complete these levels, you'll have to kill and thus presumably violate the essence of your beliefs, engaging in their own utopia and euphoria as a hunter yourself. At least, I don't see any pacifist demos on the DSDA. Not that using infighting or other pacifist strategies isn't perfectly in line with the creation of confusion.
The .TXT also mentions that "Things are not always what they seem" in the context of the demons sowing confusion. This hints at the puzzle-filled nature of these levels. Don't expect to just run through guns-a-blazing or you'll get stuck and probably throw a fit. MAP01 has an escape lift that you have to climb back on to after leaving, and in the right direction, or you won't access the hidden teleporter line that gets you the blue key. There's also a window you must leap through to get the completely optional red key. False walls, big jumps, and switch chicanery abound. If you detest such stuff, you might want to sit System Vices out. The upshot is that these levels are all pretty small, so you don't have far to go if you're twisted up. If you delight in Doom maps as Rubik's cubes, load this up.
I like all the new graphics. They definitely give System Vices a feel of its own, compared to lesser partial conversion brethren like Lord of the Flies, and Reganess has some neat structures to view like a giant spaceship and a stone fortress on a mountaintop. Sometimes, things wear a bit thin. I didn't particularly care for MAP04 - the interior of the aforementioned spaceship - once it devolved into exploring the monotonous enemy stations in each "wing". The main elevator in MAP06 is a chore due to its height and how many times you'll probably have to ride it. And, well, MAP07 is kind of boring as far as switch-pulling levels go. For every moment you're bored, though, you'll have a few that surprise you.
System Vices isn't what I thought it would be when I initially loaded it up. I was expecting something more cyberpunk, I guess. Instead, it's a tale of a human on the run in a world that wishes only discord to every thing. Reganess dares to ask us, by proxy, whether Doom is itself a utopia, a microcosm of systematic chaos that we in fact enjoy. If our participation in this killing game is in fact an extension of our moral beliefs, then I suppose the only just move is to not play it at all. I doubt Reganess took the ethical quandaries of System Vices that seriously, though. After all, "I hope this game provides some relief from the stress and monotony of everyday life. If not, well then you must be one of those bad guys that escaped from the DOOM game."
by Bob Reganess
by Bob Reganess
THE SYSTEM IS DOWN