Tuesday, December 10, 2019

10 Sectors Part 2 (10SECTO2.WAD)


In 2000, Doomworld hosted a contest inspired by an Unreal community challenge. 10 Sectors took more than 120 submissions from authors looking to create the most interesting Doom II level they could using - you guessed it - no more than 10 sectors. The premise actually allows for fairly complex levels as demonstrated in the official 10SECTOR megaWAD. It collected the thirty highest-rated entries plus two special mentions. 10SECTO2 is then the first and only spillover release. 27 of these levels were part of the top 32 for at least one judge. The illustrious Linguica hand-picked the remaining five to round the collection out to the mythic "complete game replacement" status. Like the primary release, this 2000 PWAD should be played with Doom II in a Boom-compatible port.


This collection isn't interesting on its face since it is basically a megaWAD of runners-up but the criteria for inclusion guarantees some modicum of playability. It's also full of historical curios. I'm not just talking about stuff like Paul Corfiatis's whopping four inclusions or an early career offering from Esa "Espi" Repo. 10SECTO2 has the submissions of community fixtures who aren't known for their level design, including Simon "Fraggle" Howard (SMMU, Chocolate Doom), Andrew "andrewj" Apted (EDGE, OBLIGE, Eureka), and even Dave "mewse" Kiddell (Doomworld's mimetic fish avatars).


Back when I reviewed 10 Sectors I was convinced - based on the aesthetically pleasing if simple layouts from some of its levels - that the second tier was going to be an underwhelming set. It's full of surprises, though. KinkaJoy's "CROSS" (MAP12) is one of my favorites; it has a trigger that lowers the level's blood pools to expose a second, hidden tier of passages. The author could have shied away from working the sanguine surfaces into every aspect of the layout. The fact that they did not exploited the contest's limitations to engineer far-reaching implications. Yakshin's "PIRATE" (MAP24) is a similarly ambitious entry that creates a short, "moving boat"-style adventure with monsters attacking you on both sides of the vessel. Along the same lines, Andrew Apted has a sequence in "MINEWARS" (MAP22) where you climb inside of a flying craft in order to escape.


Some authors abandoned any pretense of making a level with "normal" progression. The enigmatic David's "LD-SURVI" (MAP19) plays like an invasion style level where you outlast a teleporter storm of undead in a scenic retreat. "2MRX10S3" (MAP06), by Karl Peters, has a similar premise but sets you against imps and puts you inside a network of tunnels sprouting off of a much larger chasm. His "2MARX10S" (MAP05) tries out the boss shooter for what is an ultimately short arena-style map. One of Paul's levels, "GRIS10" (MAP16), has a similar aspect - minus the IoS - where you can employ some deft maneuvering to engender slaughter-lite infighting.


Patrick McCarthy's "BOXED" (MAP08) is another interesting experiment since it takes place in one single room with arch-viles in the center. The player must use the many crates for cover, tricky since there are more than a few monsters sprinkled amongst (and on top of) the boxes. The legendary Adam Williamson has probably the weirdest level of the entire set. His "VERTIGO" (MAP32) requires speedrunner precision during its first half followed by painstaking patience for the second. The illustrious Dave Kiddell snuck into the MAP31 slot with a Wolf3D-themed level, "10MEWSE", which makes use of a custom colormap to start you off in flashback mode.


Many of the included maps are short and simple, sometimes leaning closer to fragments a la Cephaler's MAP11. A few authors really pushed their 10 sectors as far as they could go, though. Georgiev's "ATOMANOM" (MAP07) is a massive undertaking not just in its sheer size but also midtexture bridge tracks and silent teleporters for reality-bending holes and tunnels. It's great if you're looking for weird, mindfuck levels. "RAGEBASE" (MAP25), by Cronley, is an epic-length techbase crawl through coiled hallways and occasional outdoor areas. You'll get more corridor shooter action than you can handle.


There are also some plain rock-solid outings. Drakker provided a fully-realized E1-style adventure with his "REFINERY" (MAP27) including a hordes of undead invasion. It sort of uses the same principle as KinkaJoy's level because it opens up pockets of monsters in areas where you would normally have no other reason to return to. I was also pleasantly surprised by Stephen Robinson's "STPHRZ" (MAP29) since it's another nice-looking techbase map with a sector devoted to some lighting contrast. I wasn't entirely sure what to expect from Esa Repo's "EPISMAP" (MAP14) given how early it is in his portfolio. It's rock solid, though, and shows him already attuned to concepts like visual interconnections.


I was prepared for 10 Sectors Part 2 to fall flat on its face but now I'm halfway curious to see what the rest of the rejects look like. If these two PWADs together summarize the judges' collective top 64, then what dusky jewels managed to slip by the evaluation phase? It's good to see that some folks attempted to do even crazier things within the draconian limitation. Just as well if it spawned a glut of simple but fun arcade action levels. Whatever the case, it's an interesting if not always beautiful collection of offerings from the community circa 2000.





10 SECTORS PART 2
by various authors

10S_VRGL.WADMAP01
by Vick Bobkov aka "Virgil the DOOM Poet"
A grueling network of marble corridors followed up with an outer yard surrounding a red brick structure. This is textbook 2000-era Virgil which means that the hallways are jam-packed with monsters and nearly all combat is done using shotguns. The opening is fairly intense since you don't have much of anywhere to retreat to and ammo is a little tight to start. You can sort of relax once you handle the northwestern ambush, though, because it represents the last set of dastardly tricks. The outdoor area is a fun setup since the demons, cacodemons, and floor obstacles make for potentially tricky maneuvering. The Cyberdemon finish is not nearly as engrossing.

MAP0210SECPC.WAD
by Paul Corfiatis
A good chaser after Virgil's heavy stuff. There are three distinct areas. The first is a small techbase which serves as the beginning and ending and offers little real resistance. The cavern network looks okay and has a few heavies, notably a mancubus and pain elemental. It would be nice to know where the super shotgun is but you don't need it if you've been tight with your ammo. The last bit is a cinders / dingy brick maze featuring some linked chambers. The safe islands are a decent place to hold out against the cacodemons and revenants that are found within the layout. Understandably flat and perfectly playable.

10SECTOR-FRAGGLE.WADMAP03
by Simon Howard aka "Fraggle"
In some ways it feels like an original Doom level. I think that this is due to the windowed corridors overlooking the outer yard and the catwalks over nukage chambers to the west. It's also because the author has left the chaingunner as the only appearance of the expanded bestiary. It's a pleasant play apart from a few commandos tucked in corners and one fun cacodemon ambush. It's also neat to see Fraggle play with DoomCute stuff like the blue key housing and the blown-open door.

MAP041DAYHELL.WAD
by Sascha Müller aka "The Prophet"
A wildass, abstract level with catwalks, toxic pits, and small labyrinths. It's also the first instance in the second collection of an author using linedefs to reorganize level geometry. This results in a less limited look for the final area. The combat is at times brutal due to a preponderance of chaingunners in sniper positions. Sascha's placement exacerbates the mid-level trudging through muck, part of which has an arachnotron / revenant arena. Cool room shapes and interesting layout. Not much margin for error, though.

2MARX10S.WADMAP05
by Karl R. Peters aka "marx"
This is a boss shooter map and it's very simple apart from the four commando death squads. The marble platform affords plenty of cover and it's surrounded by a sea of toxic blood but your first shot will wake up the sleeping beast. It may not be obvious at the beginning but you just have to activate each of the skull pillars, found at the corners of the playing area. The hitbox for Romero's head makes striking it with the SSG a slightly awkward proposition but it's not like it takes very long to finish.

MAP062MRX10S3.WAD
by Karl R. Peters aka "marx"
This is a neat concept. Doomguy is the last marine to arrive on the southwest side of a chasm lined by some imp-infested caves. The pointy things try to trickle in from the teleporter behind you and you run deeper to grab ammo and health dropped by fallen soldiers. The level feels oppressive at first but the key is to make a break and reach one of the distant Baron-guarded switches. You can stand your ground here, fight off the cacodemon incursion, and then work on source control. A lot of the implings teleport into a curious cage which is easily slaughtered with rockets. The exit teleporter has a quasi-evergreen arch-vile guardian which is cute but almost useless.

ATOMANOM.WADMAP07
by Dimiter Georgiev
A huge level with a psychedelic scale that's just as large. It's sort of appropriate to have MAP29's music because most of the map takes place on catwalks in an enormous, interior chamber. Imps pelt you with fireballs from awkward to hit ledges. Every alcove you duck into unveils some fresh new nightmare. On the one hand, it's a huge slog. The arch-vile placement feels especially dickish and I dislike the cell / compartment structures and their hitscanners. On the other you get crazy silent teleporter shit that hints at IMPOSS-style, reality-bending silliness. The southwestern tunnel segment might be my fave for sheer "WTF?" factor but the pits and pipes of central-west are more DoomCute.

MAP08BOXED.WAD
by Patrick McCarthy
This is an open arena setup but the gameplay is highly tactical. You have a bunch of crates to hide behind and a mixture of zombies and toughs in the periphery. More importantly, a pair of arch-viles stands overwatch in the level's center. The idea is to avoid getting needled to death by hitscanners or dusted by the archies while picking up all of the keys and ammo. From there you can either grind the sorcerers down using shells or lower their platform and hope that you can snag the rocket launcher. Neat way to tackle the 10 Sectors problem.

BROWNWIM.WADMAP09
by Wim Vanrie
Wim gussies things up with a ton of torch sconces and ceiling patterns. The layout consists of two flat and bilaterally symmetric networks of hallways. The single adjoining corridor goes a long way toward making this feel less repetitive / bland and the author gives you a few good shocks. The super shotgun ambush is probably the single most intense segment due to sheer volume but the arch-vile may catch you off guard. The level ends on a perfunctory Cyberdemon segment that mostly gets by on coordinating SSG blasts with your time around the columns. At least the final structure looks cool!

MAP10BRUTE10.WAD
by Paul Corfiatis
pcorf's design looks delightfully restrained, here. This is a very short level but it's an alright dungeon delve for Doom II. I really like the "Babel" aesthetic of the eastern yard and its irregular shape plus lattice of corridors. The atmosphere really pops since three of the sectors are used for static lighting variation. Ammo is very tight which feels rude when there are no less than two arch-viles lurking toward the end. The chainsaw, while appreciated, comes very late considering how many demons Paul throws at you.

CEPHALER.WADMAP11
by "Cephaler"
A short, tight level fragment. This is one main, zig-zagging hallway in beige brick and metal featuring closets and bars that open up with each skull switch. It's a very direct play, the main challenges being the limited movement space and the end. If you've been looking behind bars then the sealed plasma gun ought to be an obvious milestone. Keep that in mind when you eventually open up the red skulls.

MAP12CROSS.WAD
by "KinkaJoy"
This initially looked like a humdrum blood and marble ruin with some decent structures. It's hiding a great gimmick, though, which got a pop from me. I noticed all of the not-quite-walls on the automap but didn't anticipate a switch mid-way lowering the blood level everywhere. It's a great moment since there are a ton of new locations for you to explore, few of which are physically connected. I guess that it would flow better if KinkaJoy had included some new monsters but I'm glad to have this tiny slice of MetroidVania in my Doom. Most of the intense combat scenarios involve revenants in close quarters so beware.

DEF MONSTERS.WADMAP13
by "Slayer"
A weird, wooden level. If I'm not mistaken, the filename is a poke at the fact that most of the playing space is one big, secret-flagged sector. The author thus uses the "deaf" flag to keep you from being swarmed. It's not exactly difficult since you have so much room to maneuver but ammo could be a little tight. Less so if you develop a perfect routine for getting into the BFG / Cyberdemon room, the barrier to which uses up four of the ten, precious sectors.

MAP14EPISMAP.WAD
by Esa Repo aka "Espi"
A dark brick techbase from a younger time. Even this early in his career you can see Espi's fondness for interconnectedness. His level features tons of windows for other monsters to shoot at you through and even has a yard space to house a few cacodemons. The spectres blend in great with the wall and floor textures and the grimy tile flats are a cool way to cheat in some dingy "lighting" contrast. It's small but feels fully realized, especially with the fun super shotgun wing. I also like the curved hall structure leading to the northwest.

FANATIC.WADMAP15
by Marc Pullen aka "Fanatic"
This looks pretty good. It's a techbase but it begins and ends in some waterlogged and gorgeous naturalistic caverns. You'll do most of the work with the single shotgun and a lot of your time is spent tactically clearing sergeants or grinding down cacodemons. You can get yourself locked out by nudging over the front door's triggering linedef while you're carefully teasing out zombies. At least, it happened to me. It has to work this way because it shares sectors for a clever plasma gun secret as well as the blue key door. If you don't get the former then enjoy the drag-out Spiderdemon fight.

MAP16GRIS10.WAD
by Paul Corfiatis
A grisly death arena. You're set up for success with most of the guns and plenty of ammo. The outer ring has a lot of cover but also four monster packs. The demons offer the lowest level of threat but dangerous if ignored while you're trying to dodge revenant rockets or arachnotron plasma. The Hell nobles are just a big pack of HP. The monster density may seem oppressive, particularly if you try to weave through the spiders, but it's not all that difficult. The token Cyberdemon is unfortunately stuck in his little bunker, making it tough to instigate effective infighting.

HELLBASE.WADMAP17
by Pedro Arturo Gomez Blanco aka "pagb666"
A dark but otherwise clean techbase that fell under demonic assault. This level has a handful of large, distinct areas and is fully kitted out with monsters. It's exclusively fought using shells and bullets, a decision which drags the action out to interminable lengths. I'm mainly thinking of the big cacodemon / pain elemental assault past the fatal funnel but the twinned spectre hordes aren't much better. Ditto for the revenant blue key ambush. The atmosphere is great, though. I like the little thing placement story with the marines' last stand.

MAP18KODO10.WAD
by Paul Corfiatis
A cute little gauntlet level with the abstract stone and wood theme. The cacodemon ambush is a great opening twist and I appreciate that the starting area is in fact a bunker and not the start of a hub. The preponderance of meaty monsters draws out the chaingun / shotgun action. It's a short level, though, and I appreciate having to be better at dodging imp and mancubus fireballs in the caged arena. The finale, not so exciting.

LD-SURVI.WADMAP19
by David Shywayismyway (David Liten?)
Three derelict cottages around a small, bloody pond with a pillar of gore. This is an invasion-style level where you face a constant stream of zombies and shotgun guys. You can find a safe spot but you'll have to light out in order to snag more ammo. The three soul spheres ought to give you plenty of margin but the best pickup is the secret chaingun. It isn't too hard to find but not what you're looking for during the height of the assault.

MAP20LEVEL9.WAD
by Paul L. Ming
A STARTAN techbase base with copper highlights and toxic pits. It's a regular shotgun shoot-em-up versus Doom II trash enemies and a couple of mid-tier foes. The rocket launcher is tantalizingly out of reach but something triggers two sympathetic network of platforms to cycle for your convenience. The whole thing is over relatively quickly. Unless you're like me, in which case you'll completely forget where the red key is by the time you work your way around to its door. 

MBARENA.WADMAP21
by Pedro Arturo Gomez Blanco aka "pagb666"
Brown brick and metal abound in this gauntlet. The author makes a great first impression, though, using midtextures to create a wicked cool ceiling centerpiece. The level geometry is flat but the architecture looks fine in its repetition of motifs, I imagine a 10 Sectors necessity. Ammo is down to the wire, though. You can't afford to miss your shots and if you chicken out of the mancubus brawl then you'll probably be stuck in an untenable situation. Not to say that busting in and trying to clear house with the combat shotgun won't be a challenge in and of itself.

MAP22MINEWARS.WAD
by Andrew Apted
The red rock exterior suggests Hell but I dunno whether the author had any power over which slot it would have. The end result is a curious mining operation in the inferno. Andrew handles the 10 Sectors limitation by abusing midtextures. This adds some realism with the catwalk running to the green building as well as props like the drills, crates, and rugged spikes. The monster opposition is light fare apart from the pain elementals lurking inside the mine's front door. It's a cute level; I really loved the bit where you enter the air / spacecraft.

NB10_1.WADMAP23
by Nick Baker aka "NiGHTMARE"
I like NB's irregular room shapes and the teleporter gimmick. It's a total pain in the ass to fully clear, though, and most of the agony is centered around the eastern wing. It wouldn't be quite so bad if you weren't limited to the shotgun and chaingun. At the very least, you can tactically tackle the forces involved in the blue key ambush. This way you can make a safe space for the inevitable pain elemental component. Later on an arch-vile gets dumped in the same room with intent to release the contents of anything you skipped when you use the red key. Limited to the red key - and dealing with beefy monsters like pinkies and cacodemons on top of ol' archie - it's a Herculean effort. I got my success by using the teleporters to bounce back and forth and take occasional cheap shots. For the average player, though, ignore it and beeline to the exit.

MAP24PIRATE.WAD
by Mikhail Yakshin
The frustration continues. The author made a ship traveling down a channel and it looks decent considering that we're in 10 Sectors land. It starts off terrible, though. The player's back is against a two chaingunner / one shotgun guy firing squad and the only way out is through. If you survive then the mood sort of lightens up. Hitscanners seem to dominate one side of the channel with Hell nobles on the other so it's not safe to linger outside. The mancubi on the ship's bow are a chore to clear out, though. The other odd note - Mikhail either has a poke at the player or has two goodies for people using a source port with jumping. The SSG and a box of shells are tantalizingly out of reach.

RAGEBASE.WADMAP25
by "Cronley"
This is an enormous, sprawling techbase full of interesting room shapes; twisting corridors; and occasional visual connections. The author keeps the individual sections looking fresh through careful greebling. They also manage to include larger outdoor areas and at least one indoor section with a vaulted ceiling. The actual layout is stringy but ends up feeling labyrinthine due to the way that all of the hallways and rooms are coiled up on each other. The combat is generally pedestrian corridor shooting with most of the real fun happening outside.

MAP26RDC10S.WAD
by Rick Clark
A sharp-looking marble temple thing. The inlaid lava pits add a little edge to maneuvering around since you can still glide into one of the buckets and take some floor damage. The layout is super straightforward, though, consisting of wide corridors and nexus chambers. It has a strong copy / paste look. My favorite bit is the column-bound chamber since it naturally baffles monsters, giving them a better chance of surprising the player. The southwestern reveal is okay but the fight - against a trio of Hell nobles - lacks punch.

REFINERY.WADMAP27
by "Drakker"
This is a fully-realized E1-style level. The only exceptions to the OG Doom feel are a handful of chaingunners and a very late super shotgun pickup. The author did a phenomenal job at building a layout within the limitations that has height variation, is fun to explore, and has lighting effects. The way they use the sewer tunnel sectors for the crawlspace-style structures in the eastern area feels really smart. It's also Romero-ish in the moment where you open up monster closets throughout the entire map, ushering in a cursed invasion. This also comes with an enormous escalation in difficulty. The placement in the trap room is unforgiving and the zombies / imps / demons feel like they are making a beeline to you from everywhere. Wicked cool.

MAP28STM10.WAD
by Stefan Maes
A short, challenge hub in the vein of "Tricks and Traps". The strict adherence to the super shotgun gives the level an arcade-like feel. One of the wings involves fighting off cacodemons in close quarters with late teleporter arrivals dominating floor space. It's really a pitfall, though, since it doesn't serve to get you any closer to the exit. The opposite way has a Doom 64-ish "Hectic" run across pillars to reveal a dangerous crossfire. Each side has a gallery of chaingunners and one revenant, plus an imp in the four corners. The red key unlocks a compact imp maze that gives me flashbacks to Army of Darkness's "The Pit". The end features a simple "Gotcha!" setup but the limited cover drives you to double up on the Spiderdemon to survive the aftermath. Pretty cool stuff.

STPHRZ.WADMAP29
by Stephen Robinson aka "stphrz"
A couple of elements like the western elevator sequence reveals the hand but this is a downright normal techbase level. It even has some atmosphere since the author dedicated a sector for lighting. It's frontloaded in the opening leg of your journey but it makes for a great first impression. The map is thick with monsters, demons in particular. The opening rush is probably the hairiest moment since enemies will continue to dribble in from farther chambers. I suppose that the abundant and sneakily-placed chaingunners might get a few nasty sucker punches in. Good-looking with a clean design - I liked it!

MAP30TOMI10.WAD
by Tomi Rajala
Tomi sends us home with this punchy techbase level. Its placement on the card has some mechanical shortcomings. Specifically, a couple of the meaty teleporter ambushes can result in monsters telefragging each other in a rush to get in. It's otherwise a good-looking and short facility. Progression might be a little unclear because of some switch-fu but you really don't have a lot of places to go to see where new things opened. The only glaring flaw is the blue key switch removing a set of bars that are flagged yellow skull.



WARP ZONE

MAP3110MEWSE.WAD
by Dave Kiddell aka "mewse"
A Wolf3D level was probably outside of the bounds of taste of the contest judges but it fits here in this slot. The author makes things interesting by using Boom's custom colormaps feature to make the opening bit grayscale. The transition back to the realm of color is so seamless that it snuck up on me. The action is general feelgood Nazi slaying but a couple of shootouts are in big enough spaces that you might get your wings clipped. The later portion of the level has a bit of the "Nazis dabbling in the occult" angle with caged imps and then, later, a Spiderdemon.

VERTIGO.WADMAP32
by Adam Williamson
Adam is a demo recorder / speedrunner to the core so while this comes as a bit of whiplash, it isn't a shock given his history. The player must be capable of incredibly fiddly movement in increasingly challenging jumps. You will have to be able to stop on the narrow pillars and change direction to complete the second two vaults. The last one is likely to ruin your day if you don't bump the Hell knight and grab the red key. The goatman will either force you out or tear you up. The Cyberdemon finale is more about patience than anything else. I suspect that there is a paralyzing trick, though, which would simplify the ordeal. Clever and quick.

A TALE OF TWO MEGAWADS

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