Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Dimensions of Time (DOT.WAD)

Matt Tropiano is making Hell of cool maps for major projects like The Adventures of Square and Back to Saturn X. Back in 1998, though, he was a thirteen-year-old who loved Doom so much that he made his own megaWAD. Dimensions of Time is a full replacement for Doom II that's a little challenging to bite into as an experienced player; more on that, later. It's oft-cited as one of the unsung heroes of 1998. I disagree, but I can see where a lot of the appeal comes from. More than anything, I'm impressed that the author is still trucking along and doing stuff like Coffee Break Part 1 and Forsaken Overlook.

Dimensions of Time has a story, and it's starting to sound like pretty old hat by now, having seen variations on it in various megaWADs, including but not limited to the original draft of The Plutonia Experiment, Eternal Doom, Dimension Time Space-Traveler, and Scythe. The gist is that the UAC created a network of slipgates that allowed them to travel to different dimensions and periods in time, oblivious to the depredations of the denizens of Hell. The demons use their own brand of sorcery to invade the UAC base housing the slipgates and then use them to visit suffering upon all periods of Earth's history. Your mission is to fight your way to the slipgate and then use it to expunge the demons from Earth's future, then travelling backward to the past and dealing with them there. It would seem that the simple solution is to figure out when Hell constructed their portal and then obliterate them before they can use it, but arguing about causality in the Doom universe is a silly endeavor.

So. Dimensions of Time has thirty-two levels, but they're all really small, averaging somewhere between thirty and fifty enemies. The pistol-start balance is also non-existent. That hasn't stopped the clever folks that comprise Doom's speedrunning community from UV-Maxing every level, going so far as to punch and telefrag a bunch of mancubuses in MAP07, but clearing DOT from fresh starts is more an exercise in ingenuity and endurance. If you DO play with carryovers, the perceived difficulty rarely if ever holds up, meaning that the levels blow by as fast as you can hold down the fire button, leaving you free to enjoy the sights and sounds conjured forth by Tropiano's thirteen-year-old-brain.

For the most part, I played the set with carryovers, having lost my patience with "self-challenge mode", but if the level had a pretty positive outlook from the starting area I did indulge here and there. Sometimes Matt is overly generous with ammo and weapons; at other times, I wonder why he had the presence of mind to cram hidden BFGs into what seems like every other level but completely forgot to hand you normal weapons on many occasions. I don't have a whole lot to say about DOT's visuals, except that they're simple, have a sort of basic charm, and are slathered in way more silver than I'm used to seeing in a Doom megaWAD. The episode that takes place in the "past" is a little more typical of Doom II's aesthetic, but, wow! William Jennings Bryan would be proud.

Dimensions of Time is either a very quick play, or a very, very long play. Take your pick. Either way, It's cool to see that Matt has moved on to making bigger, better levels. It's an interesting way to start an authorial career, at least. Would I recommend this megaWAD? Well, I don't think that it's one of the lost, great classics of 1998, but it's certainly worth a go. I like the more experimental aspects where it indulges in gimmicks. You'll find out very quickly whether or not it's your sort of thing. Just, bring some sunglasses. All that silver is kind of blinding.

by Matt Tropiano

A dark metal techbase with a decent layout. There isn't a lot of health, discounting the secret megasphere, but you have just enough ammo to make it supposing you don't find the secret plasma gun, which will greatly speed up the teleport ambush encounter at the red key. Tropiano knows enough to offer a teleporter back to the red key switch you need to hit, but provides no monsters to battle on the return trip.

MAP02UAC Prison
More dark metal base. While normal prison maps usually look like butt, the 45 degree angle the hallways have gives it a bit more character. Tropiano has staffed some of the jail cells with Keens to throw a delta for 100% kills, and there's a really obvious megasphere trap that could be pretty troublesome, but well worth grabbing if you're prepared for it. There's also an electric chair rendered in DoomCute. I'm kind of disappointed that it wasn't actually a damage floor.

Satanic ChapelMAP03
Some potential problems early on since the chapel is surrounded by commandos and there's a free-roaming pain elemental. I dig the little gravestone in the twisted woods. The red key trap is something I don't see very often but it's hardly a threat. The dark maze has some revenants stashed inside but you should be able to handily defeat them. I'd be more concerned about the Cyberdemon, but if you wake him up, grab some of the ammo, and then run outside, you can turn it into a duck shoot.

MAP04The Docks
The demons are poisoning the water! Wide-open air and arch-viles sets my teeth on edge, but a lot of that can be worked around with some precise BFG usage, which smooths over all of this level's rough edges, like the wall of commandos, leaving you to slay the mancubus turrets in peace with the combat shotgun. What's left is an infernal maze populated by imps that's easily bested. Oh, and a DoomCute boat.

Waste FiltrationMAP05
Ye olde sewer level, except the facility has a break room and a fairly believable control room. There is a shotgun to be had in the security room if you can weather the imps in the east-end entrance. I imagine that it's easier to go west and then slay the imps from behind to get access to the station. The crusher belt thing I don't entirely understand but it's a pretty cool set piece.

An awkward teleporter lab rendered in shiny metal. There's plenty of cover you can use to handle the friendly neighborhood arch-vile, but you'll have to be wary of the stationed arachnotrons and shotgun guys. The rest of the opposition offers little threat. The teleporter sequence gets a little old but it's over pretty fast, and opening up the exit reveals another hidden BFG.

Tech CenterMAP07
This level is infamous for its pistol start difficulty, with two available options. Suffice it to say, speed runners are both clever and skilled. The door is locked and there's a huge, fiery pit behind you, which has an island swarming with lost souls. Once you get the key and then get inside, you'll have to best a bunch of arachnotrons, which will usher in a storm of mancubuses. That's where the pistol start problem comes in. It'll still be a little messy if you take in one of the hidden BFGs (or plasma gun from back in MAP01), but it won't be a timesink. If for whatever reason you were to run out of all ammo after killing the last mancubus, the berserk pack in the exit room is all you need to knock out the wave of lost souls plus arch-vile.

MAP08Military Base
A small level that starts out pretty heavy in opposition, but there's plenty of room to dodge around the heavies, making enemies like the commando snipers your worst foes. If you figure out the secret, the red key unlocks a silly Wolf3D homage that houses yet another BFG. Would it have killed Matt to add some other secret weapon alcoves here and there? The base architecture is reminiscent of MAP01 and MAP02, so there's some clear continuity, here.

A really short level that will blow by pretty fast unless you seize up whenever you see rocket-firing skeletons. I guess you might have some trouble if you actually open up the reactor, but you should be up to your eyeballs in BFGs at this point, so I don't know what your problem is. I kind of dig the storage tanks to the south.

MAP10Reactor Tower
Well, that's a nice little level. There are four pain elementals in the outskirts and a Spiderdemon that you'll reveal if you trip the threshold. You'll want to kill the elementals first, of course, and the big boss is effortlessly ground into a gray matter paste with some diligent column-humping. You're also in no danger of running out of ammo.

UAC Aeronautics CenterMAP11
A cute little techbase in silver with an attached shuttle serving as the exit and step-off point to the next episode. It's got a computer tech maze that's mostly populated with zombies... Mostly. Shockingly, there are staged pickups for the shotgun, chaingun, and rocket launcher. I guess you might need them since the outdoor area adjoining the entryway is staffed with two cacodemons and a Hell knight trio. The fountain is a nice touch.

It looks like Hell won the war. This level is gloaming with zombies; the opening is a massive shootout vs. commandos, sergeants, and troopers, and your garden variety groaners populate the rest of this office space-style level. The most dangerous thing Tropiano has is that pair of chaingunners standing on the pillars to the left and right of the southern entrance. The rocket's a cute detail, I guess, and the sky gets some chance to shine.

Ore MinesMAP13
This slightly earthy level has the first normal appearance of the plasma gun, I think. The barrels also take care of the first real opposition. The mines are dark and cramped, but it's hard to be threatening when you have a relief valve for all that plasma you've been carrying, not to mention simple combat shotgun metrics. The end-of-level shootout with the Spiderdemon and her young might be threatening but for the fact that you can just sit back and hose her down, plus she'll probably infight with the arachnotrons anyway.

MAP14Old Town
Kind of reminds me of "Suburbs" and "The Factory". The only reason this level takes long at all is the sheer space you have to cover. Well, there are four pain elementals that can crap out a ton of lost souls if you don't kill them quickly, but beyond that, the encounters are pretty isolated. The platform of arachnotrons means that you can't stand still for very long, but there's plenty of room to dodge. The psychedelic infernal interior of the northernmost building is worth a look.

Hell's FactoryMAP15
This is a fairly clever level continuing in the silver / tech theme  with a bunch of timed shoot switches. The only real roadblock is a crowd of Hell knights that start out in the central cage, but there's an invul you can use for that very purpose right off the bat. The yellow key puzzle is really easy to figure out, but may trip up some players. And, just like that, it's over.

Matt is incredibly generous with this secret level, offering up backpacks, scads of every ammo, and even every weapon with which you are to defeat nine rooms of foes, totalling a paltry thirty or so. The design is basic but pleasing, and I love the door trick at the skull switch. The combat is a big ol' yawn but you at least have the option of BFG bumping a Cyberdemon.

Another level that's purely for funsies. Seems like you took a wrong teleporter and wound up in Hell. There's more than enough ammo to escape this network of firewalls, and the Cyberdemon / arch-viles won't put up much resistance unless you decide to play it really ballsy. It's a fun gimmick level, and over all too quick.

I'm not sure where the "Trench" stuff comes in. This looks more like some futuristic docks whose two main tech areas are connected by a dark, grid 64 maze that's mostly populated with imps. Almost all of the excitement is at the onset; the second outdoor area has a Spiderdemon and some arachnotrons as a posse, with a bunch of imps up front, and two commando snipers. The rest of the level in comparison is rote room clearing.

Which Exit?MAP17
Kind of a "Tricks and Traps" setup, but each door sends you off to a tiny, congested firefight that links up with the outer ring which has some monsters like spectres and zombies and a pain elemental patrolling it. Well, one of the inner doors leads to a slow crusher, but the level's too short to really get mad at it. Whoops! The rad suit should give you enough time to clear all the troublesome monsters that might intercept you. The most interesting thing I found was a commando that was stuck in the floor in the southwestern area.

A very simple level rendered in silver at thirteen monsters. The gimmick forces you to act as quickly as possible within a limited invulnerability window against caged arachnotrons, a few arch-viles, and at some point the mess of barons that populates the entry area. There's a bit of back-and-forth with the key stuff, but this level is tiny.

Sewage PlantMAP19
Another level fragment with a wholly understandable secret BFG available, since you have to take out a Cyberdemon AND two Spiderdemons on at the climax. I actually really like this level; the shootout in the nukage portion is pretty hectic with the split of revenants and zombies. The glass hallway is a neat set piece.

MAP20Tech Zone
I definitely dig the aesthetic. There's another instance of stasis fields with the pair of arch-viles guarding the blue key and an end of level Spiderdemon that might catch you by surprise. The most dangerous scenario is probably the forest of demons / mancubuses if you're slouching on your dodging skills. The pair of viles carries the most excitement, though.

Leaving behind the basic silver bases for a more ancient look, since you're back in the past. The castle facade looks good enough but once you get inside and deal with the atrium, it's on to a network of fairly boring hallways that are mostly a way to throw some confusion at you in the main event. It looks like the lords of the castle trapped some nasty monsters in the dungeon, and grabbing the red key activates two while teleporting the rest away to the corridors you just came from. In that context, it's actually a pretty neat trap. The arachnotrons at the end are, well, not as interesting from a veteran sidestepper.

I imagine that you could coax most of the enemies here to slay themselves for a more challenging encounter. You've got a core of mancubuses in the center and, when you flip the switch, an outer yard of arachnotrons sectioned in different areas. Again, I like the really simple architecture, and it's nice seeing something silly like a big ol' Quake symbol. The exit switch, or rather the button that raises the stair to the exit, is on the backs of one of those columns.

Ancient ComplexMAP23
This level is pretty flat, but the water-bound fortress has a leg up on other entries in Dimensions of Time. It's actually manageable from pistol start, if a little awkward in locations due to the exclusivity of slot 3 and 4 weapons. The most dangerous things you have to deal with are an early sneaky pain elemental, a hallway of entrenched mancubuses, and the arch-vile on the bridge to the south. Oh, and a bevy of shotgun guys in the outer perimeter that take pot shots at you if you get too close to the railing. I didn't care enough to puzzle out that BFG secret.

MAP24Blood Sea
Another simple arena-style level. Starts out with revenants and commandos in tunnels before opening up into a baron / arachnotron shootout, which might be better augmented with a flip of the switch to release the mancubuses. When that's all cleared out, you can deal with the tepid finale, vs. two caged arch-viles and the obligatory end of level Cyberdemon. Well, things might be complicated if you grabbed the blur sphere.

Hell to PayMAP25
Giant catwalks jutting out of an infernal sea, kind of like a primitive "Gotcha!". This level is also not bad to pistol start thanks to that early plasma rifle, so I gave it a go. You still have to do some juking around the Spiderdemon, and I think one of those mancubuses in the western installation is going to be a pain to kill regardless, but it's fun and fast.

MAP26Stone & Light
A gimmick level built out of a larger-grid marble maze with a couple of larger areas that give it a better sense of place. Oh, and that caged arch-vile. The cathedral fight is okay, housing yet another hidden BFG. He also does a decent job at throwing a few encounters your way as you wander through the corridors on the return trip. That southwest bit is pure blah, though, slaying demons dead one by one. At least the Spiderdemon gets a bitchin' pentangle.

A really short library level, duh. The layout is really flat but the rooms each have some decent meat in them to hold you up. I don't know when the yellow key becomes available but if you visit every room and do the obvious stuff, it should be lowered for you when you return. There's, uh, not much to say. The bloody lost soul room to the east is kind of annoying considering the actions involved but it's over really quick. There are a bunch of hitscanners looking into the mancubus fight, but they're not much of a threat unless you're standing out in the wide-ass open.

MAP28Hell's Battlefield
Another arena fight. This one's outdoors, though, with a deep-set lake of blood to tie the area together, and among the most dangerous that this megaWAD has to offer, since its drip-feed ensures that you can't just round everything up easily. Also, I saw a surprise arch-vile mixed in there. The offshoot rooms are easily handled; it's stuff like the late-arrival mancubuses that will trip you up.

The Magma CavernsMAP29
Another short, fire-filled level that's just about doable from pistol start, though the end of level revenant pack will be a bit tricky given their proximity and your only weapons being the two shotguns. It'll be a cinch with carryovers, as usual, though the lava damage floors do present a problem. There's a surprise pain elemental in there, but nothing here is all that scary. Pistol starters will adore that first room with the zombies in it.

Tropiano throws every weapon at you and then gives you a nice handful of monsters to blow your ammo on. It's appreciated, and you can get pretty wild with that BFG. The whole thing is a setup to the boss shooter itself, a run-of-the-mill timed platform deal, so good luck intuiting that.



  1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wc18xt5wQnk theme of the megawad

  2. Hi, KMX E. I send a some message for you on DW. - Lainos

  3. Do you mind explaining "Doomcute" to me. I think I get the gist but I want to be sure.

    1. DoomCute is something i use to refer to stuff that flies in the face of the idea of Doom as some kind of ultra-polished game engine and instead reaffirms that it is mostly made up of a community of people that make maps for it with their own predilections. these are things that have no real bearing on "polished" gameplay or actively work against it but the author spent time making it and it's clear that they were proud of what they did. sector toilets and furniture are DoomCute. an imp stashed in the exit room, that's DoomCute. instant death traps, to me, are DoomCute. i guess that it is kind of another way of saying "quaint" but that has a connotation of "old-fashioned" and i kind of reject the idea that these things are inherently tied to the early days of Doom PWADs.

  4. Ah okay, thanks for that.

    This wasn't a bad map set all things considered. I actually enjoyed blazing through it. Not really a challenge though.

  5. Also I failed to get the BFG until the final map, lmao.