The ZDooM Rant

(dripping blood animated bar)

3.18.00 I've now played two major ZDoom-specific projects, TeamTNT's Doom2000 beta, and Roger Ritenour's Pleiadies, and was sorely disappointed in both (especially considering the high quality of the authors' previous work). Both suffer from the same problem: the authors set out to create an "immersive" environment, but without ensuring interesting gameplay, under the apparent belief that this "immersion" alone will make it fun to play. Fact is, it works the other way around: interesting gameplay itself creates and sustains that immersive environment! It can look like damn near anything so long as the gameplay creates flow, and the player's imagination will fill in the blanks as suggested by what he sees and how it plays. These ZDoom maps echo my major criticism of most recent children's toys: They do the playing for the child, stifling both imagination and involvement. It's no wonder kids so quickly grow bored with the newer generation of toys. Yet you can keep a kid entertained and creatively busy literally for years on end with toys like original Legos, Tinker Toys, American Bricks, or even a sandbox, because such toys do none of the thinking for the kid-- they merely suggest. These ZDoom WADs attempt to do the imagining for the player, just like so many modern toys. And just like those toys, they look cool at first, but rapidly grow boring.

Compared to these newfangled scripted maps, the old classic levels are generally primitive, lack detail, and by modern standards are lightly populated and often ridiculously easy. But they're still entertaining to play -- even over and over. They're fun, and scary, and they have genuine atmosphere -- it's easy to imagine yourself in a real place with a real risk of death. Conversely the atmosphere in these ZDoom-specific projects looks great, but it smells artificial. The authors have evidently forgotten that what made DOOM an enduring passion was its superior gameplay, not its whizbang special effects.

My advice to authors enamoured of ZDoom's scripting and special effects (indeed, of any advanced engine's capabilities): design your maps for vanilla DOOM (or for an essentially similar engine such as BOOM, MBF, or Fusion), and test their gameplay first and foremost in that environment. If they aren't fun as plain old DOOM maps, they won't be any more fun just because you pile on the scripting or special effects.

Visit Area 34's Annex for a glimpse into a level I consider a definitive classic.

(dripping blood animated bar)

droplet icon brave The Realm of the Archon
droplet icon re-enter The Twilight Asylum
droplet icon tour Area 34
droplet icon experience Life During Wartime
droplet icon listen to The Still, Small Voice of Trumpets
droplet icon view the Rogues Gallery
droplet icon reboot to Randomly Accessed Memory
droplet icon go to the Dogs
droplet icon dare to send me email