Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The UCA series

as featured in Super Serials


To some people, 1994 will always be the worst year of Doom PWADs. To others, be they antiquarians, historians, or just Doom lovers in general, there's a lot of joy to be had in these Promethean works. To be fair, there were still a lot of maps that sucked, but paving over '94 entirely does a grave disservice to the authors that stood above the rest. Eddie Nguyen seemed to have a pretty good grasp on level design, and while his maps have foibles intolerable to modern players (not truly balanced for pistol start, mazes, cramped, repetition, mandatory "secrets"), they are pretty evocative and come with some fairly dense .TXT descriptions that eventually taper off to author commentaries. Nguyen wanted to make a whole episode, too, and you see how that panned out. At least he managed to cap it off, unlike the sorely unresolved INVADE...

The UCA series was meant to be played sequentially, with carryovers. The levels are still completable without, but you will find maxing them a fairly painful endeavor. They also require a paradigm shift as far as how you approach level progression. In UCA, you must find an unmarked door in order to access the exit, and TALPOIDA requires a leap of faith. Neither are obvious, though in retrospect, both are hinted at in a vague manner as befits the adventure game logic that comes from working puzzles into Doom. If none of this at all bothers you, then by all means, play on. Interesting side note - the names of these maps appear to be derived from marine animals.

by Eddie Nguyen

The debut has the most variety of any of the series. It starts out in a crater, mixes some navigating with overlaid molten rock tunnels with jaunts to infernal machinery, before settling into the more overtly tech section which still has unusual features like a metal machine ziggurat and cherry red portals into the infernal aether. Combat starts out with you typically being over-matched until you squirrel away some more ammo and weapons.

TALPOIDA shows Nguyen coming up with one major feature and then driving it into the ground, which he will continue to do ad nauseum. Here, the layout is made primarily of a series of diamonds built within each other like Russian nesting dolls, with the interstitial areas carved out for side rooms and access to the next, more outer ring. If he'd spent some more time making the junctions more memorable, like the catwalk over the nukage, it wouldn't be quite as jarring after having followed UCA.

This time, the majority of the level is a dark, red rock maze populated with cacodemons and regular demons. There are some zombies, too, but these caverns are fairly flat. At least it isn't a real maze - I don't recall any pointless dead ends and your progression is gated at fairly obvious places, like heading upstream the molten river to find the one bridge across it. As usual, Nguyen manages to stuff a few sections of interesting architecture in some of the rooms. I just wish there were a few more...

SAPIDUSB has a humdrum techbase layout but the corners are actual objectives, power generators you have to destroy and which seal off the corners, requiring you to trudge through the base interior. That and the computer brain are cool-as-'94 features. The actual rooms inside the base are unfortunately bland, though, and by the time you reach this map with carryovers, you'll barely think as you blast away the motley assortments of monsters placed in each hallway. A decent finale, though.

A fiddler on the roof. Sounds crazy, no? But here, in our little village of Doomworld,
you might say every one of us is a fiddler on the roof trying to scratch out a pleasant,
simple map without breaking his neck. It isn't easy. You may ask 'Why do we stay
up there if it's so dangerous?' Well, we stay because Doomworld is our home. And
how do we keep our balance? That I can tell you in one word: tradition!


  1. Ugly, Old School, Vintage, Doomage right here.

  2. I wouldn't mind fighting a giant crab from hell. I imagine it would be pretty good at strafing.

    1. We need more demons of all shapes and sizes, really