Monday, March 16, 2015

Exquisite Corpse (EXCORPSE.WAD)

by Andrew "Linguica" Stine, Ray "Shtbag667" Schmitz,
Jacob "Darksoul" Kastner, "Volteface", "Fiend", Mike "Cyb" Watson,
Simon "_5hifty" Rance, Chris "Chopkinsca" Hopkins, Boris "boris" Iwanski,
Maximillian Augustus "Blackfish" Daley, "Scrum", and Josh "Earthquake" Simpson

The 1024 fad hit Doomworld pretty hard. In some ways, it still hasn't recovered, though 2048 may yet take its place. 1024 levels limit the playable space to 1024 x 1024 units; the challenge to the author is to create a level that avoids feeling as restrictive as it truly is. Before the Cacoward winning Congestion / Claustrophobia 1024, though, there was 2004's Exquisite Corpse, from where 1024 ultimately originated. The project got its cues from a surrealist parlour game where authors join together to create sentences and images, the caveat being that each player can only see the very edges of what the previous author did.

Doomworld's Linguica started a version of the game for Doomworld, the canvas being a Doom II map divided into 1024 x 1024 sections. After the creation of a section, the adjacent authors would get their 64 x 1024 guides to work from (I think) so that they would have the gist of what they had to mesh up with. From there, though, anything was fair game as long as it didn't depart too far from what a player could be expected to have when walking into the area. The end result had twelve contributors working on a 4 x 3 grid for a fairly large, non-linear level that's chock full of monsters and claustrophobic fight scenarios.

Exquisite Corpse is a beautiful mess. Each 1024 area has its own incredibly distinct character and, with one real exception, sticks out like a sore thumb next to its compatriots. The delta is the seam between square 1 and 5 (as noted in the .TXT), where Fiend's addition feels like a natural extension of Linguica's opening square. It fits together, though, in its own hodgepodge way, kind of like one of those massive, Polygon Base-style levels, just far more dense and with less irregular playing areas. Most of the level has a distinctly techbase feel including a token crate storage area, but the southwest area is like a border of gothic that for whatever reason sections of the sole Hell area, courtesy of Blackfish.

There are a few hiccups during gameplay, like a Cyberdemon you're supposed to crush and some teleporter waves including arch-viles near the end, but it's basically 1024 gameplay if you're familiar with it, just over a much larger area and without features like scenery and stuff outside the playing area. I guess boris provides the biggest departure, stuffing a lot of high profile monsters into the ending segment, tucked away into the southeast corner. The single most demanding bit is just starting out, really, since you're stuck with the base shotgun and have several directions to run and hunt for weapons, but every stone you turn over has more monsters under it, and bumping up against enemies like barons in close quarters can be a daunting grind without the combat shotgun.

In any case, it's a wonderful experiment, and resulted in some cool concept levels done under the 1024 banner. The only real crime is that no one else has got their shit together to do another Exquisite Corpse map. It's worth a play, regardless of its importance in Doom's community history, as long as you don't mind heavily cramped gameplay.



  1. If I do another one, the individual sections might be tetrominoes :)

  2. It would be nice to see a 2015 rendition, I'm sure the top shelf authors of today could make top shelf stuff for it. Maybe allow each author a 2048x2048 for a very big map, make it a 2- or 3-map wad if it gets too big (but find a way for the maps to continue naturally into each other - for instance fringes of another map may be added to be viewable from but outside the playing area of the previous map).

    Or just stress that each author is contributing only a small part of the actual map, and should not fall into 'cramped 1024 syndrome'. Depends on participation kind of.

    1. I think there's only so much you can stress in an impromptu community project like this, especially if you want to keep in the spirit of "Exquisite Corpse"