Reflections on Doom Mapping
A number of years passed between my first playthroughs of Doom and Doom II and my exposure to the vast wealth of maps made over the years by the games' community. A time spent lurking on the venerable Doomworld forums opened my eyes to the huge variety of WADs made by mappers amateur and exerperienced, for purist vanilla compability all the way up to advanced source ports like ZDoom. Deciding that mapping for the Doom engine seemed simple enough, I eventually sank a great deal of time into learning Doombuilder 2 in around 2014 to 2016.
A couple of years on from leaving Doom mapping behind, I suddenly remembered the maps I had completed and released: a tiny number compared to the hundreds of designs I'd begun and abandoned. To my surprise, I'm still fond of these modest projects and have even found that there are some gameplay videos online. It seemed as good a time as any to reflect on my comparatively brief time as a Doom mapper.
Ironically, my first released map for a Doom engine game was actually for Heretic; frustrated with the game's extremely limited texture set, I used custom ones for "Viridian Vault." Unfortunately I no longer have a copy of this or my first Doom II map, which was titled "Fort Neuro". I was helped a great deal by the very kind and thoughtful playtesters on Doomworld. As a relative newcomer to the Doom games (and to mapping), I was always mostly influenced by modern designers - particularly Paul "skillsaw" DeBruyne, whose maps I am a huge fan of.
The first map I made to see the light of day on the idgames database was a contribution to a community megawad (a 32-level mapset) called The Plutinya Experiment (AKA Plutonia 1024). This was organised by mapper Jon "40oz" Vail, who co-designed an excellent WAD called UAC Ultra. For thie design I made a classic newbie mistake by remaking the notorious MAP07 from Doom II - a storied cliché in Doom mapping. Due to a bout of illness and a lack of inspiration, mapper surreily came on board to finish the map and received a co-credit. These additions hugely improved the map and made far more challenging - I actually find "Green Destiny" it very difficult to complete.
To my initial horror, my favourite Doom streamer Richard "tarnsman" Frei played a build of the WAD on stream and was somewhat less than enthusiastic about our MAP07 remake. I can see the funny side of it now. The megawad was eventually released after a long delay in August 2015 and is still available for download via the idgames archive. Because the WAD was a fairly prominent community release, there are also YouTube playthroughs available by players larzuk06 and lingyan203.
I made one more contribution to a released community megawad - this was for the Doomworld Mega Project 2015, to which I submitted a level in the MAP05 slot called "Rock Bottom". It is the only map of mine on the idgames database which I made solo, and is set within a small underground base. The megawad was overseen by the Czech mapper scifista42, who had been very helpful in his criticism of my earliest maps. It was eventually released to the database in November 2016, and is still available to download. I've only recently learned that "Rock Bottom" was also played at the time by a prominent Doom streamer, this time John Suitepee - happily, he was much more impressed than tarnsman had been by my previous released map, and had some very kind words.
I next decided that I wanted to release a small set of maps all of my own. I came to the conclusion that the best way forwards would be to make very small "techbase" maps - this eventually took the form of a 3-map WAD called Sucker Punch. My hope was that this would be merely a prelude to a much larger set of maps, each being a "bitesize" experience of two or three minutes. Out of every three maps, one would have green lighting (for easy difficulty), one yell0w (for medium) and one red (for hard). Again, I was fortunate enough to receive great feedback on the WAD from the Doomworld community but ultimately my efforts to make a second set of three maps fell through.
My mapping had definitely improved by the time I made Sucker Punch. The maps show very clear influence from the WADs by skillsaw I had played, particularly Lunatic and Vanguard (both of which I highly recommend). This influence is evident in the choice of textures and in the style of detailing I used; certainly I had none of skillsaw's flair for novel monster encounters and consistently challenging fights - nor his mastery of scale. MAP03 is an arena battle with timed waves of enemies that teleport into the map - this was very time-consuming for me to build, and looking back I doubt I could replicate the effect without a great deal of effort.
Once again, I didn't realise until recently that John Suitepee also played Sucker Punch on his stream and was again very kind in his appraisal of it. John immediately picked up on the influence from skillsaw and from Back to Saturn X Episode 1 (which skillsaw also worked on).
I can exclusively (!) reveal a few screenshots of my draft work on maps 4 - 6 of Sucker Punch, which were never completed. The visual theme for these maps was intended to be more gothic, while maintaining the colour-coding of the first three levels. I was also making a conscious effort to introduce more complex battles, including one which was effectively timed by taking place entirely on a damaging floor - if the player couldn't defeat the enemies before a radiation suit wore out, they were likely doomed. For whatever reason, I couldn't quite finish any of the three maps off and while it's great that a few players expressed an interest in playing more of Sucker Punch, I don't think its a wish I can fulfil.
That being said, I can once again make Sucker Punch as it exists available for download via the link below. Note that to play the WAD, you will need to download the Community Chest 4 texture pack and load it alongside. Looking back, I'm quite proud of the limited output of my time as a Doom mapper, and hope that players still enjoy the few maps I made.
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I write about classic science fiction and occasionally fantasy; I sometimes make maps for Doom II; and I'm a contributor to the videogames site Entertainium, where I regularly review new games.