gameplay, whatever the hell that is

(MAP 08 of D2RELOAD will have to wait – recording an UV demo with no saves is actually proving to be quite difficult as all the major battles feature multiple revenants… coupling that with the many moments it’s possible to fall into slime and have to backtrack and you have one mean level!)

As the Doom community grows ever more close-knit and hardcore, the idea of “good gameplay” has been honed to certain elements – monster pressure from multiple directions and ideally from above, abstract asymmetrical play-areas which constrain Doomguy – but not so much that he gets constantly stuck on corners – areas that loop in on themselves and repopulate with teleporting monsters at certain dramatic moments, with imps, chaingunners and revenants being the most frequently encountered of the bestiary. The optimal point of monster thickness could be characterized as “mini-slaughter”, with forming crowds complex enough to cause combat puzzles but, once controlled, minimize the need for clean-up time – hunting down straggling monsters who have ceased to ply pressure. Downtime is minimized, eschewing scavenging, puzzle hunting and maze gameplay in favour of funnelling Doomguy to the next set piece. Essentially, arcade gaming, but taking place in architecturally-striking and cinematic locations.

It all sounds wonderful and solved, but note that that’s a description of the modern Doom ideals which totally fails at explaining how the original levels work =P Doom 1 mostly pits non-threatening enemies against the player, usually even activating them within Doomguy’s eyesight. Any really good player can plow through Doom without the need to hide behind doorframes or be particularly tactical about weapon selection, since every level typically contains enough ammunition to kill its denizens twice over. Furthermore, a lot of the stock levels ask the player to back-track or use the map to discern their next move and occasionally feature buttons which, upon activation, give no immediate information about what they changed. Doom 2 improves the strength of hell’s armies by introducing the revenant, the vile and many other stern enemies that make safe positional movement a lot harder to maintain but deploys them on a lot of fairly daft maps which are, variously: inscrutable and difficult to escape long past the point where all the enemies are dead, spacially massive so that monster pressure is defeated by the sheer distance you’re allowed to stand away from enemy fire, or downtime-creating backtrack-athons where no route through the level creates a particularly sexy speedrun =P Ultimate Doom’s extra episode does create shining moments of true modern gameplay, but usually in pernicious ways, ie. the lack of health on E4M1 or the immediate caco-mobbing on the following level, probably the first time the game has presented the player with a fight that’s a losing proposition, forcing Doomguy to plunge into a level whose signatures include treacherous walkways and Barons of Hell too meaty to be removed by a panicking, fleeing player! Good luck with that!

My point is not to be rough on the original levels because frankly I still adore them. I’m just wondering why the original levels are now disallowed from affecting modern gameplay! Speaking as a player who doesn’t become frustrated by repeatedly riding the same lift, looking at the map, sniping monsters from afar, being killed by death-traps, switch-hunting, searching for required, unmarked secrets, pulling off crate-jumps, solving mazes or using the Tyson weapons, it’s a little dismaying to see so many great levels be dismissed as “having bad gameplay” or being “untested” for straying from the formula. It’s a good formula, of course, that gives us BTSX and Valiant but, as far as I am concerned, Doom having such a good basic system means that just about any competent map you care to design in it has good gameplay, because it’s a Doom map! I do worry that these visionary map sets like A.L.T. will become a thing of a past because they simply don’t press the correct few buttons – I know I would be dissuaded from mapping if a genuinely great project I was a part of was received so badly. I don’t mean this as criticism of the community, but the current guidelines on what’s “good gameplay” seem to have unwittingly created a state in prospective players where they are slightly less willing to indulge imaginative levels with imagination of their own. A.L.T. is probably a dreadful experience if you don’t allow it to unfold in your mind, whereas something like Speed of Doom kicks ass on an immediate level without really holding any deeper secrets.

I’m rambling now. I’d just like finish by appealling to the strange mappers to keep bringing the strangeness, whether or not it’s strictly good gameplay. 😀


2 thoughts on “gameplay, whatever the hell that is

    1. good thought: – d2reload – pseudo-realistic, linear, revenanty – speed of doom – speed-mapping, slaughter gameplay – alternate life transformation – atmospheric, transgressive, dream-logic

      neither Valiant or any BTSX episode has a final release on /idgames/ so far, or if they do they are very well hidden 😀


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