Doom Zero by DAS|-| [Mod][Doom]

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Doom Zero by DAS|-| [Mod][Doom]

Postby DavidN » Fri Jan 10, 2020 2:44 pm

Unlike many of the mods we feature in the Spotlight, this one is fully vanilla-compatible and will even run under MS-DOS should you want it to - but it’s such a great example of what can be done in Doom even without all the fancy GZDoom extensions that I felt it needed special mention. After all, GZDoom is an engine that's meant to run vanilla Doom games as well!



Doom Zero was a nice surprise that came almost out of nowhere. Apart from a six-level demo that surfaced back in 2017, author DASI-I had quietly worked away on it for two years before suddenly announcing its release to coincide with the 25th anniversary of Doom II. His philosophy for its design was to find and use new and interesting mechanics within the vanilla engine while still respecting id Software’s base level design guidelines, producing a hybrid of modern and classic design.

As a result, Doom Zero is not a WAD that keeps your visplane count straining at 125 throughout or has a million fiddly little bits of sector architecture. In fact, the look of it is quite understated, usually sticking to relatively plain, simple rooms and corridors reminiscent of the first IWADs. You won’t ever find yourself in any giant arena fights with 666 monsters pouring out of hidden teleports - the maps stay small and manageable and they never outstay their welcome. Instead of impressing with scale, this WAD puts its ingenuity into smaller challenges and unexpected clever scenarios, using the elements provided by vanilla Doom and putting them together in new and creative ways to finds its own style despite the confines of the quarter-century-old engine.



As soon as the main menu melts away to reveal the first techbase map you’ll feel at home - little references to Doom’s shareware episode are scattered all over, with the WAD introducing its own ideas on top of the vanilla aesthetics gradually as the game progresses. Throughout the course of its 32 levels, the player is taken through techbases, marble castles, cities, terrestrial and hellish landscapes in original takes on familiar styles, and manages never to feel repetitive - a remarkable achievement considering only one level designer worked on this. I particularly liked one map called The Pits that’s fought between two high-rise buildings, giving a great sense of real-world location without having to over-detail. More unusually, the secret level “Meat” is an unsettling tribute to the history of id Software, and it’s followed by a second secret level that takes a page from the book of Episode 3’s secret level Warrens.

Several levels give you options in the form of what I came to call “choose your own adventure” sections, where you’ll be presented with three keys or switches, and approaching one will close off the others. The choice you make will determine the route that you take through the map - it’s such a simple idea, and easy to achieve using just the vanilla linedef actions, but it instantly gives the maps an interesting degree of exploration and replayability. And you’ll notice the previously meaningless gargoyle textures becoming much more useful here, being used to mark switches and pair them with the door they open - nicely solving one of the more frustrating elements of Doom 2 in a straightforward way.



Elsewhere, subtle tricks are used to great effect, giving illusions such as changing wall textures or a switch that has to be pressed twice with different keys for each stage. And yet these things never feel out of place, or like they’re drawing undue attention to themselves - they just make the player perform a slight double-take if they know the Doom engine, and make them wonder exactly how these things were put together.

Along those same lines, Doom Zero also has the cleverest secrets that I’ve ever seen in any WAD, rarely just asking the player to notice a slightly different texture in a dark corner or providing hidden doors that can be found by running along every wall belting the space bar. Instead, you’ll have to use your wits (along with platforms, teleports and hidden ledges) to access the strong powerups and additional supplies that are often placed tauntingly just out of reach, and it makes you feel like a genius when you finally work out how to defeat the machinations preventing you from reaching them.



Only a couple of things are truly new - an original Dehacked monster replaces the Wolfenstein officer, a floating skull reminiscent of the beta Lost Soul that blasts shotgun-sounding attacks at you through its mouth. It starts appearing towards the end of the game, and its mobility and hitscan ability makes it a dangerous enemy especially in packs - yet another thing that will force you to adjust your tactics. And the game concludes with a climactic fight that, in keeping with the standard throughout the WAD, takes the vanilla objects that make up the Icon of Sin and uses some creative trickery to repurpose them into something that we haven’t seen before. After that, an epilogue guides you to the end, revealing the true reason behind the WAD’s name and providing a very satisfactory storyline proposal that ties the strands of the Doom chronology together.



Doom Zero is a fantastic tribute to the original Doom and the design philosophies that make it such an enduring game - it respects the roots of Doom but complements the style perfectly with its own ideas. Despite being released so long after the glory days of vanilla TCs and megaWADs, it truly deserves to be counted as one of the classics.

Doom Zero thread over on DoomWorld
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Re: Doom Zero by DAS|-| [Mod][Doom]

Postby Kinsie » Fri Jan 24, 2020 6:01 am

This definitely needs more love.
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Re: Doom Zero by DAS|-| [Mod][Doom]

Postby Redneckerz » Fri Jan 24, 2020 6:20 am

Having hovered over the DW thread and this one, i am lowkey wondering if it was assessed by Realm667.

EDIT: It didn't. Well, i am putting it up the queue for me and ill give it some recognition.

Because it looks epic. I wonder why back in September this out of all things was missed.
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Re: Doom Zero by DAS|-| [Mod][Doom]

Postby Torchere » Sun Jan 26, 2020 12:20 pm

True fans will appreciate it!
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Re: Doom Zero by DAS|-| [Mod][Doom]

Postby Brucedg » Thu Jan 30, 2020 11:22 am

Interesting :D
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Re: Doom Zero by DAS|-| [Mod][Doom]

Postby Redneckerz » Thu Jan 30, 2020 12:28 pm

You can expect this soon somewhere on a specific place of Doom. ;)
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Re: Doom Zero by DAS|-| [Mod][Doom]

Postby Project Dark Fox » Thu Jan 30, 2020 10:02 pm

Redneckerz wrote:You can expect this soon somewhere on a specific place of Doom. ;)

I think it got a runner-up prize in the most recent Cacowards. That's how I found out about it because there's still some great treasures to be found in there, too.
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Re: Doom Zero by DAS|-| [Mod][Doom]

Postby Redneckerz » Fri Jan 31, 2020 3:49 am

Project Dark Fox wrote:
Redneckerz wrote:You can expect this soon somewhere on a specific place of Doom. ;)

I think it got a runner-up prize in the most recent Cacowards. That's how I found out about it because there's still some great treasures to be found in there, too.

Indeed. But that's not the place i am referring to. Lets just say i was surprised it was not covered yet.

In general, reach for this project is rather limited compared to Doom4Vanilla. That when DZ, judging by what it does and the community acceptance of it, definitely holds its own.
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Re: Doom Zero by DAS|-| [Mod][Doom]

Postby ZaxxerDog » Wed Apr 08, 2020 8:09 am

Eh, I don't get what the fuss is about honestly though granted I'm not amazed by much anymore when it comes to megawads. There are some great maps and some really cool ideas in Doom Zero but overall I don't feel that it adds much to the whole thing (you're like "hey, I can choose which key I get, nice" and move on) and the gameplay gets boring relatively quickly because the mapper is using the same tricks over and over again. By the end I was like "oh, of course there are archviles, of course they are teleporting behind me, man I'd love to have some good old fashioned combat instead of this". This would have been a great 10 maps but instead it's 30 + 2 and you'll feel that lenght by the end... a LOT.
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Re: Doom Zero by DAS|-| [Mod][Doom]

Postby Redneckerz » Wed Apr 08, 2020 9:01 am

ZaxxerDog wrote:Eh, I don't get what the fuss is about honestly though granted I'm not amazed by much anymore when it comes to megawads. There are some great maps and some really cool ideas in Doom Zero but overall I don't feel that it adds much to the whole thing (you're like "hey, I can choose which key I get, nice" and move on) and the gameplay gets boring relatively quickly because the mapper is using the same tricks over and over again. By the end I was like "oh, of course there are archviles, of course they are teleporting behind me, man I'd love to have some good old fashioned combat instead of this". This would have been a great 10 maps but instead it's 30 + 2 and you'll feel that lenght by the end... a LOT.

Interesting opinion for the most part, thanks for posting.

I think that megawads do rely on a standard set of variables on which they rely upon - In essense, practically every megawad follows the Doom design methodology of finding a keycard, shooting an archvile or being trapped in a corner with the lights out. That is what defines a lot of megawads, first and formost.

That isn't to say that there are megawads that do something different from the usual gameplay. On the top of my head:

- Arch-Vile Jump.
- The Revenant Problem.
- and an oldie, Cyberdreams.

Perhaps these are more to your liking for megawads that forfeit most of Doom's gameplay mechanics. :)
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Re: Doom Zero by DAS|-| [Mod][Doom]

Postby ZaxxerDog » Wed Apr 08, 2020 9:59 am

I think you misunderstood me in the sense that it's not the classic gameplay I have a problem with (I very much prefer that, I still play Doom to play just that: Doom), it's just that DZ frequently repeats some of its tricks to the point that the gameplay can become predictable. For example for the first five times I was very much impressed with the archvile placement but when it got predictable it got the level of "oh, I just had this big battle near the beginning of the map... there will be archviles here when I'm going to backrack through here later, right?" and 4 out of 5 times that was the case.

So I feel that this wad could have been a lot better with only 10-15 maps because I didn't find the gameplay varied enough for 32. The first 10 maps are pretty much excellent with some great memorable layouts and some actual gameplay variety but later there is more and more repetition. The lowest point may be map 19 because that's nothing more than a boring looking tech base with repetitive combat encounters (there's a teleporter exit where you enter a room, dudes attack you from the front and teleport behind you... and this is almost every single combat arena with the occasional archvile of course) and there even a switch puzzle gets repeated because... uh, the mapper liked the first switch puzzle so much that he wanted to make another one just like it?

Then at map 20 there's a "jolt" with the theme changing a bit and the new enemy being introduced and that succeeds in keeping you interested and dragging you through the finish line but something gets lost in that map 11-19 "episode" and the map pack never really recovers from that.
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Re: Doom Zero by DAS|-| [Mod][Doom]

Postby Redneckerz » Wed Apr 08, 2020 10:45 am

ZaxxerDog wrote:I think you misunderstood me in the sense that it's not the classic gameplay I have a problem with (I very much prefer that, I still play Doom to play just that: Doom),

To be honest, i responded on what i thought was the gist of your story:

''though granted I'm not amazed by much anymore when it comes to megawads.''

Which i took as that the general style of gameplay offered in megawads does not impress you anymore. Hence 3 options that aren't your usual Doom megawad :wink:
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Re: Doom Zero by DAS|-| [Mod][Doom]

Postby ZaxxerDog » Wed Apr 08, 2020 11:55 am

The reason behind that (me not being amazed by much that is) is a bit different overall: I don't finish many megawads these days because of what I like to call "level design out of desperation". The "modern age" of Doom megawads is pretty bad mostly because we got really good at the game by the 2010s, so much so that fair challenge can't really offer much anymore so level design became desperate to challenge you. That means an overabundance of teleports, trap rooms where a bunch of stuff ambushes you and kills you if you don't have prior knowledge of the situation because you would have just killed everything if it was fair.

Of course there are still some sparks of old school goodness here and there, sometimes a SIGIL or a Doom Zero comes around (or something like the Lost Levels for Doom 64 with some really nice maps from Kaiser) where the map layouts themselves can offer you the fun you want but it's getting rare and usually I just find myself more and more baffled when I look at things like the Cacoward winners every year.
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Re: Doom Zero by DAS|-| [Mod][Doom]

Postby Redneckerz » Wed Apr 08, 2020 1:02 pm

ZaxxerDog wrote:The "modern age" of Doom megawads is pretty bad mostly because we got really good at the game by the 2010s, so much so that fair challenge can't really offer much anymore so level design became desperate to challenge you.

I have to disagree here. Whilst it is true that many seasoned veteran mappers are also seasoned players in their own right, i do not think it affects the quality of their mapping to a negative degree. In fact, i think it actually enhances it.

Within a WAD, there are only so many ways you can design a level, being limited by the engine's capabilities. This limitation (I feel that's too negative but oh well) requires a mapper to use what is there well: You can't do certain thing as easy as you can in others. This also goes for enemy placements - There is just so much one can do here.

There are WADS (like the aforementioned examples) that try to mimic other ways of gameplay within this, called loosely, ''framework''. Then there are projects that are from the complete opposite of the spectrum: Stuff like Lilith.pk3, or ArsDoom, that recreates a virtual exhibition place.

We are the point that these mappers, with years of experience underneath their belts, chug out levels that would absolutely floor most of the id Soft maps by comparison. This is not only due to years of refinement and study

What they maps have less ofcourse is the id Software seal of design, simply because the mapper was not part of that process.

With that said, i feel Doom Zero takes a faithful approach to its design: It does not do things someone like Romero wouldn't try out himself if he spent several years perfecting his craft. Even his recent maps carry a certain style - What would you say of these, for instance?

ZaxxerDog wrote:usually I just find myself more and more baffled when I look at things like the Cacoward winners every year.

(Note here that i didn't selectively quote you here by way of ignoring everything else you said.)

Why is that, you think? Is that because you feel that most of these projects exhibit the same pitfalls you describe, or?

Is it also possible that, because of your i assume lengthy experience with mappacks, you may exhibit a case of ''have seen'' already (On top of your point that these maps may have the pitfalls you described)?
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Re: Doom Zero by DAS|-| [Mod][Doom]

Postby ZaxxerDog » Wed Apr 08, 2020 3:53 pm

Redneckerz wrote:Why is that, you think? Is that because you feel that most of these projects exhibit the same pitfalls you describe, or?

When it comes to the Cacowards specifically it's just that usually the stuff that gets selected doesn't really fit my taste. Part of that is the aspect of gameplay design I was talking about but overall I just don't think the focus is in the right place there. I get the feeling that Doomworld rewards wads that are impressive / have a lot of effort put into them in the technical sense instead of focusing on the gameplay, the quality of the level design, the fun factor or the artistry.

I don't want to pointlessly bash megawads people worked very hard on so I'll do it with only one for the sake of illustrating what I mean: I really don't like Eviternity. I think that its level design is uninspired and the prime example of the "pitfalls" I've mentioned, I don't like the changes made to the original gameplay mechanics, I don't like the new enemies, I think the art style is all over the place and it's just a ton of random stuff thrown together that at the end fails to establish a coherent atmosphere. I thought it was terrible, I didn't even finsih it but I won't deny that there was clearly a LOT of effort put into it.

Then there's SIGIL, John Romero's 9 level map pack for Doom 1 that he made in his spare time with a lot less effort but I love the hell out of it. No new gameplay mechanics, no new monsters, no new graphics apart from a new skybox, not even Doom 2's enemies and super shotgun... but there's a ton of artistry and some slight innovation happening there (in my years of playing Doom maps I've never seen level exits used quite like that and I've never seen decoration sprites used as shootable switches as a consistently and repeatedly applied game mechanic). I get the oppressive atmosphere the mapper was going for by the way the encounters play out, from how darkness is being used or how the map layouts play with your sense of scale. There is world building going on, I get that this is supposed to be Romero's idea of Hell and it feels unique compared to every other version of Hell that we've seen so far (and he did it with the old textures, that's insane). When I think of SIGIL I think of a specific thing, I know how the map pack feels like but Eviternity? Well, there's the color blue and there's red... I have no idea what Eviternity is, what it wants to say or anything like that.

For Doomworld though SIGIL is merely a runner up only because we like Romero while Eviternity is apparently the best thing ever that no doomer should miss. I can confidently say that even though I had some criticisms even Doom Zero has 10 times more atmosphere and significantly better and more innovative level design than Eviternity yet it doesn't even get a mention in the Cacowards, that's a bit crazy to me.
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