Sunday, August 14, 2016

Japanese Community Project (JPCP_V1*.WAD)

The Doom community has a distinctly international flair. It isn't immediately obvious since many of them are pretty good English typists but a considerable number have their own personal forums like the massive Russian website and the smaller but no less treasured French message board. Enter the Japanese Doom community, a group of individuals who I assume must be tightly knit. I'm no games historian but I understand that PC gaming is a relatively niche activity in Japan. While Doom has been ported to what seems like anything and everything the tools used for content creation - specifically, levels - are an entirely different matter. The JDC is no less passionate for it, though, and from them comes one of 2016's biggest surprises: the Japanese Community Project, a full-fledged megaWAD for limit-removing ports.

JPCP doesn't have much of a story except to say that the demons are attacking again and their egregious misuse of teleporter technology has lead to the dissolution of reality. This is best reflected in the penultimate level, "Hazmat Hazama". The text offers other details like using homemade devices to communicate (implying some kind of technological catastrophe) plus a demonic assault on power plants. It's just a pretense for a lot of fun jaunting around whatever themes the authors decided on whether they're ordinary bases, orbital platforms, color coordinated, graphic Gothic Hell, and all parts between.

There are twelve different authors and four of them were previously known to me. Tatsurd-Cacocaco is a classic speedrunner who made a couple of wicked cool maps in Plutonia: Revisited as well as some of the most memorable re-imaginings in the 1994 Tune-Up Community Project. Masayan also had a few maps in the latter, most memorably in my mind the very brave (vicious) "Nightmare" (MAP28). Nanka Kurashiki has become a Doom community treasure with her lovely fan art, sometimes funny and always fantastic, and develops her chops beyond the cheeky but technically accomplished Kusok. I hadn't played any of SkullDemon's maps before but I've been aware of them since Memfis brought them to light.

The Japanese Community Project feels very... personalized. The authors no doubt have their inspirations but their styles feel more or less unconcerned with the trends of "professional" Doom megaWADs. By that I'm referring to their willingness to make players do things like track down Commander Keens in an Easter egg hunt, divine the sequence for leaping across colored-coded pillars, or create (good!) pictures out of sector geometry and then include them in the playable area. The sheer novelty of making Doom maps is apparent, here, marking the admittedly blurry line between a playground for the author's wants vs. one built for the illusionary standard player; a product, if you will.

The difficulty has moments of arena panic as well as a few full-on slaughter encounters (like MAP17 and MAP28). As a whole, though, it leans more toward punchy and trappy with plenty of light fare in between. The later levels have some pistol panic, foremost in my mind being MAP26, and feature a significant number of surprise arch-viles. It's hard for me to generalize any real trends. Some authors utilize the contrast of light and shadow, making for visual difficulty, while others lean toward teleporter congestion where you are liable to be overwhelmed if you're slow to act. You'll also find levels that feature plenty of outdoor space but precious little to safely move around in if any at all, leaving the player with a sense of exposure. There's a lot of variation as befits a community project.

burabojunior and Toooooasty are the two biggest surprises. burabo's large number of maps also reflects a practiced hand in the editor and Toastajamma has a style that spans Doom realism ("Blood Fund Gang") to ornate, chaotic hodgepodge ("Hazmat Hazama"). They form the meat of the megaWAD together with Tatsurd and Kurashiki while the rest of the participants throw in a level or two. Some of these are massive if not particularly focused adventures like Namsan's "Bad Morning" and Yullie's "Embodiment of Maliciousness". If you play JPCP - and you should - you'll definitely see something that you haven't seen before.

I'd love to see a Japanese Community Project II but I'd be just as happy to see more levels from these authors both known and new. They've certainly staked their place out in Doom's history; it'll be interesting to see what they continue to add to it. If you've a lack of affinity for the forced and frantic gameplay that has lodged itself in the Doom scene then you might find some refuge here. My deepest thanks for allowing me more wonderlands to explore.


by assorted authors

First AssaultMAP01
by Tatsuya "Tatsurd-Cacocaco" Ito
An amiable opener. This is a short little techbase level with some outdoor components that features mostly zombies and imps plus a few lean-ins from shotgun guys, chaingunners, cacodemons, and lost souls. There are a few demons, too, but you'll need to find the Berserk secret to fight them. I like that the player has a few options to explore, rather than the one and only path leading directly from key to key. The outdoor area to the northeast is a nice warm-up for the action that is yet to come.

MAP02Rural Mini-Base
by Tatsuya "Tatsurd-Cacocaco" Ito
Another little outpost level from Ito. It's sort of a tiny web of hallways connecting a couple of rooms to a larger, outdoor area. The yard is the scene of two fairly large firefights, the second putting a bit of pressure on the player arena-style by introducing the pain elemental. The revenant and mancubus also get some surprise appearances behind their respective doors. They're ideal targets for the secret rocket launcher should you happen to find it.

The Sign of the ArmageddonMAP03
by "Masayan" and "SkullDemon"
A pretty cool mix of Gothic bricks and metal in a relaxed tempo. The pace is slow because the shotgun will be your main weapon for most of the level. You'll use it to chew through cacodemons, Hell knights, and maybe even an arch-vile or two if you squander all of your rockets. The nice, simple layout has been complicated by a number of secrets, a feature I really appreciate. The best action is concentrated in the main yard. It has a sort of walkway-surrounding-water feel and a nice dip down and up a pair of curved stairs to add some variety.

by "burabojunior"
A short and sweet invasion-style level. It has a sort of Plutonia-meets-Quake aesthetic that starts out with a bit of exposure as you dance around a couple of revenants before backing the player into a corner. The return is done cover-shooter style. Arch-viles are poised on your sides and a gaggle of imps and zombies (among other things) blocks your egress. There's a secret combat shotgun available but it's not worth much during the second phase.

by "Toooooasty"
A large, open level with very busy detailing and a heavy emphasis on wood. The enemy count is deceptive since many of the monsters you'll battle are scattered zombimen but Toastfriend has included plenty of tougher foes to cut your teeth on. It kind of feels like taking the greebling detail of future, tech levels and applying it to E4. The result is a wonderfully abstract experience. I love the bits of nonsense like the lift panels in the northwest section of the map and the large, curved doors.

MAP06Riminshi Valley
by "burabojunior"
Another tight map from burabo. It's rendered in an overgrown ruins aesthetic with a sole UAC plaque revealing its origins. It's a pretty cool slice of Doom and features a lot of three-dimensional progression in the cascades leading to the blue key shrine. Its annex is a gorgeous scene with a surprisingly awkward arch-vile encounter. The main hall and outdoor area to the south look pretty cool, too. The big surprise for me was the vibrant yet rusted tech wing. It's a secret area and houses a plasma gun, some ammo, and another cramped arch-vile fight. I think that the columns make this one a lot easier, though.

Confused ArenaMAP07
by Tatsuya "Tatsurd-Cacocaco" Ito
Ito tries to take us away from the "Dead Simple" standard with some guest spots by Hell knights, commandos, a few cacodemons, and an arch-vile. The other beasties are a great way to break up the more standard action and the little bridges are a cute visual. The arachnotron was the most surprising round to me since it isn't immediately obvious that some of them teleport in. They can make for a pretty sneaky surprise while you're working your way up one of the side staircases.

by "Toooooasty"
This level carries the same sort of abstract, wide-open feel of "Woodexial". The twist is that the playing area's spacious ruins are actually panels of a comic. They tell the story when viewed from the automap. And, uh, it looks pretty fuckin' good. I love how the geometry of the rooms has been derived from the art. The secret annex and its the rocket-laden conveyor belt is a pretty cool Easter egg. I really like Toastdude's gimmicks. One moment has the Barons emerging from their chained on the wall positions. Another showcases a Doom 3-esque transforming bathroom complete with infernal reflection and mirror-universe clue.

The Three WorldMAP09
by "Tyousen121"
A more straightforward take on "Tricks and Traps" that leans toward claustrophobia and monster closets as opposed to dastardly setups. It still ends on the inevitable Barons vs. Cyberdemon showdown. It's also sort of a kitchen sink experience in terms of monsters and weapons and uses the full kit as well as a secret BFG. The layout feels kind of flat but the action is punchy and features several "hold the line" rocket launcher moments. The western half of the level has all of the cool architecture, almost as though Tyousen cut his teeth making the map in the same order as its progression...

MAP10The Odd Encampment
by "Yullie"
Again, channeling a little of the look of Plutonia. There's an emphasis on wide, open areas like the yard that dominates much of the level as well as the starting room and the subsequent mancubus platform segment. It's got some memorable if simple fights in the metallic staircase revenant cascade and the deadly darkness of the arch-vile / Baron battle in the red key basement. The final is pretty tough, too, with the AV acting as a crucial spoiler from his little slit on the floor. The sorcerer sure to confound players who don't quickly figure out where he is so that they can hide.

My favMAP11
by Nanka Kurashiki
A wonderfully abstract world of color wrought from the images of sweets, be they melon, ice cream, or otherwise... and, of course, the caco. This is a fun level and features some sector machinery gimmicks like the citrus wheel of elevator platforms. You'll also see intuit-or-die scenarios where the solutions are clearly encoded in the map itself, such as the difference in torches in the blue torch maze or the finale's color-coded pillars. I hope that you were paying attention during your playthrough! Nanka has outfitted the level with an parade charming moments. One involves Doomguy conducting a choir of infernal eyes while one plays the piano. Another is an end-of-level questionnaire. And, of course, several caco shrines. Very cool stuff.

MAP12Magnetic Force Apparatus
by "burabojunior"
This one draws from Community Chest 4, specifically "Interstellar Sickness" / space platform floating in the ether. It's way more cramped, though, and what little wiggle room you have will be crammed full of monsters on several occasions. The most notable (to me) are the ambushes resulting from both the blue and yellow keys. There's a good chokepoint for the latter, even if it's slightly awkward to exploit. The station is pretty cute. I dig the orbital platform to the northeast, the scene of much slaughter.

Bad MorningMAP13
by "Namsan"
A large, abstract level that's both spacious and loaded with monsters. It appears to be framed as some sort of wild nightmare, which fits insides the megaWAD's unravelling reality theme. It's quite charming. The individual areas have their own consistency but vary wildly from one to the next. The layout includes such sights as a flooded cargo alley alongside a Hellish garden of skulls and infernal stone. The latter is also a bit of a shooting gallery as far as player exposure goes. The big pillar room that serves as a sort of level hub is my favorite area.

by "toMass"
"G_T" is an installation with a largely symmetric layout in the shape of an extracted tooth. You'll have a devil of a time if you get locked outside before opening the tall doors since you'll need to find the secret re-entry point. Healing is at a premium when starting out but toMass gives you both full health and armor prior to activating the blue key switch. It's appreciated since using it starts quite a row. The level has a plodding pace due to the meat that's packed into the interior areas but it offers plenty of punch if your eyes glaze over.

by Nanka Kurashiki
The core of this level is a fairly ordinary-looking dark techbase using CC4 textures. It has some stranger areas, though, including but not limited to a hedge maze with a Cyberdemon overlord as well as a nasty little jaunt through the obligatory arena in Hell. Kurashiki has worked in her own peculiar touches. I liked the DoomCute game of red key keep-away. My favorite elements were several other portraits of sweets that factor into secret areas and, specifically, the hunt for the hidden exit. Good luck getting there. The combat is pretty rough and tumble and largely tight on ammo. It gets really claustrophobic in the futuristic annex to the north. The mid-tier rocket battle on the island in the molten cavern was pretty cool.

MAP31Manufacturing Plant
by "Masayan"
This tech installation is mostly about big rooms and scattered monsters. It leans hard on zombimen early on. In the large, outdoor area the author transitions to imps plus mancubi in craters. The portrayal of the latter looks like they were some kind of Hellish payload. The secret exit is the primary gimmick, locked behind a yellow key door. The key itself is in its own, complicated secret. It has three sets of bars - associated with an equal number of different pickups in separate, other secrets - that will slam shut if you grab any of said powerups. Each one is clearly marked by the little yellow key shrines that back the pedestals and - again - they slam shut when you grab the item. The open areas make for a few hairy fights, namely the squat bridge battle with the Cyberdemon and commando gallery in the normal exit. There's also a friendly neighborhood Spiderdemon but the blur sphere should be more than enough to tackle it.

Blood Fund GangMAP32
by "Toooooasty"
Toastjockey takes things to the other extreme. This very ornate representation of a bank features several vaults, sitting areas, offices, teller windows, and tiny toilet stalls. The demons don't take kindly to your investigation, though, and are eager to protect their investment en masse. This results in you beating back several large teleport ambushes. The nastiest occurs in the northwestern section of the level. It dumps all manner of things into an underground foyer that is also the site of the super-secret gold vault. Good luck getting inside the first door if you aren't there at the five minute mark. It looks pretty sharp and plays okay for what is inevitably a congested but charming dose of Doom realism.

MAP16Forlorn Defense Line
by Tatsuya "Tatsurd-Cacocaco" Ito
A tough little level that's got a sort of valley thing going on with the walk down the middle and installations built into each side. I kind of got a "City of the Unavenged" vibe at the start because of the combination of the building facades and the apparent depth. The entrenched opposition is pretty rough. You'll want to clear out the side buildings for extra goodies before trying to oust the most worrisome aspects like the rock and hard place of the revenant platform vs. the arch-vile bunker. Leapfrogging the inevitable conflict and picking up the rocket launcher should make things a fair bit easier for patient players. There's a cool watery cavern in the level's western portion, the site of some claustrophobic action. I also like the big ambush at the finale. It puts a baffle between the player and the safe zone while spawning in a few fliers and installing a row of hitscanners at the exit.

UAC Energy PlantMAP17
by "burabojunior"
This tight and sharp-looking techbase level is full of monsters as well as strategically placed barrels that generally wipe out the brunt of the invasions. Your priorities will change fast and you'll learn to scope out your explosive powerups so as to slay your foes as quickly as possible. It's pretty rough, though. You're just as likely to kill yourself with a misplaced rocket if you're not paying attention or standing far away enough from the choke point walls in case the autoaim screws you. After you handle some serious congestion the map opens up into the outer yard that dominates the southern and eastern portions of the level. The barrel gimmick remains but it's far more visible. As could be expected, it's only a matter of time before seeing some arch-viles with all the bodies carpeting the floors. Fun stuff.

MAP18Space Port Panik
by "doom68k"
The stark visuals and strong light contrast factor into a level whose gameplay is far less mainstream. The space port is sitting on the edge of an island in the process of being swallowed by lava. It's a gloomy, silent place until you start shooting. The intended progression starts up through the waiting area. This dangerous place boasts black benches and is made safe only by the light amp goggles. You then move down through a shattered storage area to unlock the red key. This ushers in a large wave of revenants and Hell knights that's helmed with a Cyberdemon. It's not too terribly dangerous since it's a perfect case for Infighting 101. The caveat rests in the new meat now awaiting you in the main terminal, a potentially rude awakening. Things sort of chill out once you have the red key in hand. A cool set piece level.

by Nanka Kurashiki
In contrast to the bright colors of "My fav", "Remind" has the washed-out hues of a fading memory. It weaves between alien caverns, natural landscapes, shattered bases, the infinite void, and a slice of vibrant green and red Hell. It's a cool if morose adventure and features light action punctuated by occasional punchy ambushes. The combat culminates in a pretty cool Cyberdremon track fight with a massive, winding blood staircase and an eager peanut gallery. The settings and architecture and segues make this a great adventure level. It's a surreal experience and is complemented by an enchanting music track choice.

MAP20Escape From UAC Space Base
by "burabojunior"
Another bang-on interstellar platform level from burabo. It's got a complex layout and a lot of ground to cover. There's an edge of claustrophobia worked in plus player exposure with all those windows. The teleport ambushes aren't too bad. I'd be more afraid of being sniped to death by the heavy weapons dudes, arachnotrons, and mancubi. Maybe those arch-viles, too. I love the abstract, technological temple look and the contrast of vibrant colors and dull metal makes for a visually striking experience. The Spiderdemon showdown near the end is a pretty decent finale.

Search and DestroyMAP21
by "burabojunior"
Kicking off E3 with much more punchy gameplay. This level focuses on rocket usage against an arena arrangement utilizing mancubi in the corners, arachnotrons in the middle, and skellingtons dead center. It's a simple but gorgeous dark underground base and fields a few other surprises. These include a fatso pincer attack as well as cat and mouse with a Cyberdemon. At least unless you get him on the middle walkway so that you won't be soaking any splash damage. Fast, fun, and tight.

MAP22A Den of Vice
by "burabojunior"
Flowing right from the end of MAP21. "Den" opens on a dark and dangerous base with a few unwelcome surprises like the return after grabbing the blue key vs. revenants and waking up the arch-vile. Tackling the skeletons in the southwestern room is one of the toughest bits. Afterward the level becomes a fairly straightforward climb up some ruins hewn from abyss-black stone. It's got tons of snipers but you've got a ton of rockets and maybe the secret BFG. The Cyberdemon may be the roughest pit stop of them all depending on how your timing works out. I love the visuals and the jaunt through the deep blue soul sphere shrine is definitely worth visiting.

Thermal Disposal PlaceMAP23
by "Guna"
Not exactly inspiring in its architecture or layout but it gets the job done. This subterranean base is loaded with high-HP monsters in big, wide halls and rooms. Starting out is kind of rough since you're forced at quite a lot of beasties while holding just the regular shotgun and chaingun. You can sprint either way for a SSG, though, provided that you're ready to get yourself out of whatever hole you dig into. Your return trips to the main hallway lead to some mightier opposition but you should have plenty of gunsnammo by then. I really like the slaughter-lite finale. A Spiderdemon guards the exit switch and a storm of imps and revenants comes from the sides, ripe for some careful crowdshaping into its super chaingun funnel.

MAP24Probably Maybe Certainly
by "Tyousen121"
An odd, abstract level that takes you through a murky nexus, a Hellish office building, a crate maze, and a little demon village among other things. The action is full of rough patches. One of the earliest is a congested teleport ambush in the sewer area of questionable layout to the southwest. You've got to make every combat shotgun blast count lest you be overwhelmed. The action is fairly light once you get past it excepting a few instances of potentially tricky arch-viles. Oh, and maybe the upper hallway with the arachnotron at the end and the gasbags in that wide hidey-hole.

Cakravartin's MiscalculationMAP25
by Nanka Kurashiki
A very cool Hell map with intricate, three-dimensional progression and oodles of awe-inspiring visuals. Most of the action takes place in a complex ring that surrounds the center of the map where the finale occurs. It's initially staffed by a scant few imps but it's open to fire from the rest of the level. You can poke around at your own pace as long as you're cognizant of your surroundings since you're liable to be struck from afar. It's also the only way for you to pick up weapon upgrades like the rocket launcher and plasma gun. The latter's ambush is a potentially nasty one if encountered early on. The Cyberdemon throne room near the climax is much simpler but it's got a great look and I always love wrangling monsters into infighting. Outstanding stuff.

MAP26Embodiment of Maliciousness
by "Yullie"
"Embodiment" is a massive adventure weaving through a variety of locales, freewheeling from dark gothic Hell to abstract techbase and back again. It's also a very punchy level and leans heavily on arch-viles, revenants, and other combat gimmicks. The pretty desperate opener drops you straight into the hornet's nest. The level is fairly large and the monster count is proportionally small but Yullie makes every one of those snarling beasties matter. One of the more memorable encounters involves an ornate, tiled floor rising like a see-saw as you make your way to the top, fending off revenants and a progressive handful of arch-viles. The Spiderdemon's seat of power is a nice exercise in shooting from cover. The Cyberdemon showdown emphasizes the difficulty of dealing with the goliath on a staircase, not that there isn't plenty of room to juke those rockets. The author took a lot of care taken in decorating some sort of sadist's abode. It serves as the link between the more labyrinthine west half and the expansive eastern section.

A Resplendent Emerald GreenMAP27
by "burabojunior"
burabo presents an aesthetically stunning wonderland rendered in darkness and neon green. There aren't a whole lot of monsters but it's a dangerous and tricky level. This is due to the exposure of islands in a nukage sea and the secondary quest / puzzle of figuring out the locations of 13 Commander Keens. All of them must be smithereen'd before the exit gate will open. In spite of all the arch-viles, the fights are pretty easy to figure out as long as you can weather the initial surprise. Both of the Cyberdemons that you fight will have the high ground, making them troublesome adversaries. Discovering all of the Keens may prove to be the tougher challenge.

by "Masa"
Taking things in a bit of a different direction with a shipyard... Well, whatever constitutes one in Hell. The expansive scenery suggests a great depth of space in all those giant brick buildings dwelling on the periphery. The playing area has plenty of wide, open places that leave you feeling exposed to the broad array of monsters. This is especially the case when you've got stuff like Cyberdemons performing overwatch or revenant ambushes while you're trying to navigate narrow piers. About half of the level's monsters are relegated to the penultimate encounter. It's a huge brawl at the red key that is rife for a mixture of BFG spam and an infighting roundup once you've surgically removed the arch-viles. The rest of the outing has a fairly chill vibe but you yourself are rarely relaxed.

Hazmat HazamaMAP29
by "Toooooasty"
Toooooasty's freewheeling style is plied to its logical end with a level where reality is falling apart at the seams and then stitched back together, joined by fissures peering into the Hellish void. It's a surreal, confusing experience, especially in moments like the Plutonic courtyard overlooked by the UAC office space. The overall effect imbues a whole-hearted three-dimensional feel. The fights aren't too bad, but maneuverability - given the breakdown of the universe - is tricky, and the level does a job of exploiting the player's handicaps. The finale is the most open of the fights. Two Cyberdemons are joined by arachnotron and arch-vile snipers while cacodemons and a pain elemental run interference. Make sure you check out all the secret areas for some neat Easter eggs.

MAP30Every Beginning Has an End
by "burabojunior"
Your standard Icon level in gothic black brick. The Cyberdemon on the shooter platform gives it a punchy feel. There's a ton of meat clogging up the lower floor and the staircases leading up to the six switches. When you factor in the mancubi alongside everything else it makes for tricky combat. The fight isn't made any easier by leaning heavily on rockets during the initial phase. Or switching to a deadly dance while you try to take out the Cyberdemon. Thankfully, there's no timing involved when lining yourself up to blow out the boss brain. Enjoy the wonderful end sequence graphic.

This post is part of a series on
Doomworld's 2016 Cacowards

The Top TenBest MultiplayerRunners Up
Tech Gone BadAeonDMWarphouse
Ancient Aliens32in24-16THT: Threnody
Nihility: Infinite TeethBest Gameplay ModBloodstain
MutinyDoom 4 DoomStrange Aeons
Absolutely KilledMordeth AwardEchelon
Elf Gets PissedDoom the Way id Did:Shadow of the Wool Ball
ComatoseThe Lost Episodes
Alpha Accident: Terra NovaLudicrium
Japanese Community ProjectMapper of the Year
Blades of Agony E1Lainos


  1. This Wad was great, the good use of colors as you progress through out the levels, especially when some turn out to be a huge space tech theme. Although, map 27 just gives off SunLust Vibes, it's the only level I didn't like due to destroying my framrate. As for map 32, it's level design is based off PayDay (the game), first heist level.

    1. while i have never played PayDay, now that you mention it, the map makes total sense

  2. Loved this mappack. Tyousen121's maps are pretty bad, though. Almost seems like a beginning mapper. burabojunior, however, should be nominated for a mapper of the year Cacoward. Also, I absolutely LOVED the music on map 20. One of the best custom songs I've heard in a Doom mappack for quite some time. The song starts punchy, but gets legendary at around 2:40. I have to find what it is.

    1. oh yeah, it's stewboy's "Jailbreak", which also featured in Speed of Doom's MAP33. I agree, it's a very kickass track