Top Ten - Page 3
- Matt Tropiano
It's cool that Team TWiD is trying to replicate the design processes of id-crafted works, but I love the idea behind Brian Knox's Secret Santa Project. The authors signed up to be randomly assigned their quarry, another participant they were to imitate as the sincerest form of flattery. Matt Tropiano was the first one out of the gates with this massive castle, a tribute to
lupinx-Kassman, the darling of last year's Community Chest 4. It's got lots of ground to cover, a tablet offering you aid at the beginning of your quest, and a cursed sword. What more could you ask for? Well, besides demons. Tropiano has you covered there, too.
Forsaken Overlook works as a hybrid of the design sensibilities of both Matt and Chris; you can really feel Tropiano stepping out of his comfort zone while still staying true to some of his own gameplay conceptions. Its size is no obstacle as you are efficiently motivated from area to area, and the scale and scope is just as vast as what I've come to think of with Kassman's stuff, if not nearly as colorful. There's a lot of promise in both this and the second release, Kassman's own Drown Stone, that leaves me hankering for the rest of the Secret Santa Project. So, uh, get to it, guys!
In the wake of a few influential designers such as Huy Pham and Insane_Gazebo, the concept of a map that was to be defined as much by its architecture as its slaughter-type gameplay became established method. Taking immediately to the waters were a number of folks keen on perpetuating this design as their hallmark, but in the case of Ribbiks – a talented musician and speedrunner – it is entirely reasonable to regard his approach as his own.
Stardate 20X6 is not a postal address. It is an awesome display of colour and size. Countless streaks of pink and purple move in every direction, darting boldly across a grunge of gritty metal and towering edifices. Baths of molten magenta bubble brightly under the loom of new and powerful technocracies... the demons themselves having changed their appearances to suit the new environment. It paints a very powerful picture, and is in many ways the predecessor to Ribbiks's equally striking Swim with the Whales.
Even so, these magnificent visuals are not the highlight of the set. Stardate also succeeds in the gameplay department by managing to avoid most of the negative tropes surrounding slaughter based combat. A highly mindful approach to set piece encounters and the balance of difficulty both ensure that little time is wasted on idly blasting at hordes, so that if you're not ogling at the architecture or marvelling at the candy floss you're deciding how best to overcome the next obstacle, employing methods that are often as inventive as the encounters themselves.
All things considered, it wouldn't surprise me to discover a mapset that succeeds Stardate in most of its best respects (indeed, it would not colour me surprised), but whatever it is it could not remove its importance and role in the development of this style, having cemented Ribbiks in as both a pioneer and champion of the colossus.
Kudos, sir. Ribena.
Finally in 2013, more than a decade after the advent of Aliens TC and Fistful of Doom, are we delivered of a masterpiece in total conversion. The spirit of an era revived with the GZDoom engine and enhanced with a modern quality, with gloomy gangplanks, glimmering treasure troves and hellish ravines abound.
Welcome to Pirate Doom, the latest and greatest from Darch of Doomworld.
Perhaps the most important thing to note about this salty treat is the complete lack of seriousness with which it takes itself. It is an inexhaustible comedy of exploding parrots and pygmy cannibals; swashbuckling demons and walking on tightropes. A madness that, far from never ceasing, seems only to intensify as the game goes on.
New game mechanics such as sword fighting also contribute to this craze of enjoyment and prove to be more than just novelties – a fact that the speedrunning community has been quick to note. Admittedly the lack of a scurvy mechanic displeases me, as I would have liked to see Doomguy's face rapidly disgorge its dental features with every rotten apple... but for want of peg leg arachnotrons and lost souls that wear eye patches I can forgive this misdemeanour and carry out the praises.
A project as successful as Pirate Doom has been a long time coming, and not just for the sake of great art and sound. It has that all important recognition of complete humour and fun that seems so often to be lost in re-brands of Doom, and this is something that is perhaps more inherent in the game than many folks would note. This is, I think, what makes Pirate Doom one of the best releases of the year, and an exemplar to which all future conversions should aspire.
Swim With the Whales
"So I made some maps, they're blue and you should play them."
These were the words of announcement for Ribbiks's new project, and they were all I needed to read to send me scrambling for the download link. They might as well have said "stop what you're doing and cancel dinner." Stardate 20X6 was already penned in for an award by this stage, of course, but was it possible for Ribbiks to outdo himself just weeks before the ceremony? I had to take a look.
...Coral beds and glowing reefs. Towering structures laced with blue. No actual whales. My mind raced at the possibilities. You can probably imagine the shame I felt, then, after finally loading it up and discovering that my best attempts to picture the scene had failed to meet the quality presented. My feeble brain of 1,300 grams had been beaten by a man with an idtech 1 engine. Excellent!
The gorgeous show of visuals were not limited to the opening areas, however, and I soon found myself immersed in a world that seemed to perfectly match the vision of the author. This is significant even when compared with Stardate 20X6, which felt more like an end-stage development of the style, because of Ribbiks's changing more than just the colour with every map. The colour blue meant oceans, and oceans meant an abundance of water and natural seascape, interlaced with a precise dichotomy of metal tech and brickwork. The spatial detailing and layout of these elements is among the best I've ever seen, and allows for the predictably great gameplay to be just as efficient, Ribbiks's impressive ability to transition between skirmishes and set piece encounters being a particular highlight.
I am very, very tempted to call these maps flawless. An objection on the grounds that some moments may be too difficult (map02 puts a fun but daunting spin on the teleporting cyberdemon trope), as well as other quibbles with gameplay, seem to be met with the response that this is a mapset totally confident in what it's set out to do and how to do it. In any case, though, the glowing reef and coral bed cannot discriminate against the lesser player. They are there to be marvelled at and appreciated by all.
- Espi Award for Lifetime Achievement
Top Ten - Page 1
- Back to Saturn X: Episode 1
- Doom 2 The Way id Did
- Unholy Realms
Top Ten - Page 2
- ZDoom Community Map Project: Take II
- Fuel Devourer
Top Ten - Page 3
- Forsaken Overlook
- Stardate 20X6
- Pirate Doom
- Swim With the Whales
- Eon Deathmatch
- Best Gameplay Mod
- Mordeth Award
- Mapper of the Year
NMN, WE MISS YOU
Our last two runners-up, coincidentally but interestingly, share a common link in a certain once-prominent artist in the Doom community that has reappeared and vanished more than once. Left behind are two promising, but incomplete, mementos of his presence. What might they be, I wonder?
Soulcrusher was an incredibly ambitious GZDoom project but fell victim to NMN's departure from the Doom scene, robbing it of its major artist. Alter-Zero did what he could to finish it, and the final product has some great aspects in terms of both level and weapon design, drawing some of its character from late-90s FPSs. My only major misgiving is that the latter half of the nine levels seems to run out of steam. Still, you owe it to yourself to load it up and see just how much he managed to put together, and Alter-Zero is going back and revising his work due to mentioned criticisms, so good on him.
Pawel "NMN" Zarczynski
Despite the risk of accidentally triggering a hipster card, there doesn't seem to be a better introduction for this wad than "You've probably never heard of it." Indeed, NMN's Stomper was officially canceled and silently released on the author's site (only to be taken down later during site restructuring) with only a couple of lucky souls taking notice and being kind enough to mirror it on the DooMed Speed Demos Archive.
Archival tragedies aside, the newly-excavated wad deserves a spotlight despite its unfinished state, as the remains of this Boom partial conversion are a sight to behold. With interesting architecture, spiffy new tech textures, a (portion of a) killer soundtrack, and a snazzy set of reskinned weapons to top it off, Stomper would've been a shoo-in for a proper award (and perhaps a worthy successor to STRAIN) had its author's wishes been fulfilled. One can only hope that some enterprising individual takes it upon him/herself to finish it up some day... or at least we're strongly hinting at it.
MOST PROMISING NEWCOMER
...Is actually three people! The contributions by Eris Falling, Obsidian and Scifista42 have this year been not just promising but greatly encouraging, showing once again that there's never a shortage of talent and leadership quality. Eris has stepped up eagerly to the managerial plate with Doom 2 in Name Only and has shown a marked desire to improve his skill as a level designer. Obsidian, albeit from mid 2012, has been perhaps the most prolific designer around and is wonderfully proficient under the circumstances, and I have personally been impressed with Scifista's ever increasing ability, his work in 100 Lines showing real, creative flare.
A massive thanks to all our new members for forcing back the horizon of Doom once again. May you continue to be inspired and create great works of art. Map on, I say! By Petersen's Guile!