Wednesday, September 19, 2018

KILL! Zone Episode One: The Trek Begins (KZ#1.WAD)


Once a year or so someone starts a "Most Underrated WADs" thread on Doomworld and it seems like Donald Howard's Kill! Zone (and its sequel, KILLZON2) are perennial favorites. Don's fanciful publishing house was Heuristic Software, though whether he had anything to do with the then defunct chess game company is beyond me. A reading of the now archived Team TNT roster reveals that he is also the same Don Howard who contributed three levels to Daedalus: Alien Defense. His debut, Vile-Lab, is apparently lost to the sands of time. KZ#1 is a seven-map episode for Doom II and was published in 1996. The author did not bother attempting to establish any semblance of a narrative but if it bears any relation to the tongue-in-cheek follow-up then each of the maps represents a separate bastion of Hellspawn rather than a single adventure with multiple stages.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Water Spirit (WATRSP.WAD)


burabojunior's levels formed much of the backbone of the Japanese Community Project, featuring thrilling action on an aesthetically pleasing canvas. I loved the hidden temple aesthetic of "Riminishi Valley", the orbital platform journey culminating in "Escape From UAC Space Base" backed by Stuart Rynn's "Jailbreak", and the puzzle-driven lethal neon of "Resplendent Emerald Green". Water Spirit, a three-level Doom II minisode for Boom-compatible source ports, was his 2017 follow-up and in fact first solo release to the archives. I kind of knew what to expect from its look since I'd seen  few screenshots in its thread but I could not have guessed where the gameplay would head.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Waterlab GZD (NJWLGZD.PK3)

WATERLAB GZD
by Nigel "Enjay" Rowand


The Legacy engine got a lot of interesting features during the source port boom. Some of them didn't even last for the engine's lifetime. One to stick with Scottish sensation Enjay was a warping effect for stuff seen under the surface of water, demoed in a small level entitled WATERLAB. It so intrigued him that he felt compelled to flesh the tech showcase out but in doing so he hit upon the likely cause of its disappearance from Legacy's feature set. When the strain became too much for the engine to bear, he shipped the project to GZDoom. The end result is a MAP01 replacement for Doom II designated Waterlab GZD and if there is any doubt in your mind, rest assured that it is much larger than the original.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Rest In Peace, John W. Anderson

If you haven't already heard the news then I regret to inform you that Dr. Sleep (John W. Anderson) died in April of 2018 of pneumonia. Anderson didn't make a great many levels compared to his fellow Master Levels for Doom II authors but his dedication to detailing as it pertains to texture alignment and lightcasting solidified him as one of the early cornerstones of PWAD design. While he had numerous other accomplishments during his lifetime of 61 years (including design credits for Blood, Unreal, Kingpin, and Daikatana), he had quite a few that are specific to Doom.


  • John was responsible for the Inferno series of single map releases. While most of them ultimately became part of commercial products, the freely-available ones (Dante's Gate and Crossing Acheron) were acknowledged early on as outstanding examples of PWADs so much that the latter became immortalized as one of Doomworld's Top 10 WADs of 1994. These works were an early influence on many authors including in my own personal experience Malcolm Sailor and Paul Corfiatis.
  • Because of the quality of the first two levels, five of the rest - Virgil's Lead, Minos' Judgement, Nessus, Geryon, and Vesperas - became part of the Master Levels for Doom II project. Their appearance helped to cement the gothic brick and metal style but the more subtle influence is the proliferation of his simple, starry night sky in other user-created PWADs. These levels were also included in the Playstation's Final Doom, forming a significant portion of the initial impression and no doubt leaving an impact on people whose Playstation console experience remains definitive.
  • The last of the Inferno levels, CHIRON, managed to make its way into The Ultimate Doom as a part of its additional fourth episode, Thy Flesh Consumed ("And Hell Followed"), and is thus likely the most widely-played of his output.
  • John's least-known level - apart from the never-realized Lethe, which would have concluded the Inferno series - is almost certainly a Heretic level titled Recant.


More information is available on the DoomWiki if you're interested in reading more about this early pillar of the community. As for myself, it's sad to know that two of the six Master Levels authors are gone, both within a month of each other, but I'm glad that his family stopped by to let the community know of his passing.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Back to Hell E1 (BTHE1.WAD)


Tomi Rajala had his heyday during Doom's source port boom, demonstrating the power of ZDoom's early features when he released The Hell Factory Hub One in the year 2000. He also showed his capacity to make longer, single levels with Painful Evil during the same year. Back to Hell (not to be confused with Dave Seager's episode of the same name) appeared to be his passion project and was potentially a megaWAD for Doom II but the author never finished it and the only evidence of its existence was a review of a seven-map demo by Colin Phipps on Doom Underground. I put out a feeler to see if anyone still had a copy lying around on their hard drive and Grazza obliged. Surprisingly, his version was slightly less unfinished for a grand total of nine levels! This exchange happened back in 2013 so I am happy to be playing the demo now in TYOOL 2018 so that it can finally stop riding my conscience.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Rip It, Tear It, Smash It! (RITESMIT.WAD)


Chris didn't know it when he started to help Paul out on 2002: A Doom Odyssey but he was beginning a love affair with the Ultimate episodes that has gone on until - as of right now - his Shores of Hell-themed collection, Monument, released in 2015. While most of his contributions to 2002ADO were styled after Thy Flesh Consumed, he did squeeze out "Obituary Written" for E3 and "Station Beta" for E2 before moving on to Phobos-style stuff (CH Retro Episode). Rip It, Tear It, Smash It! is a pair of Deimos-influenced oddities, uploaded to the archives at the end of 2002. As was the case with his Knee Deep in the Dead tribute, these E2M1 and E2M2 replacements have no associated story and could just as easily be tacked on to Doomguy's continued adventures through the Doomed base.