Saturday, May 31, 2014

Odessa (ODESSA_1.WAD)

by Bob "Odessa" Evans

It feels weird being able to write this, but, here goes. Bob Evans came back to Doom around its 20th anniversary and brought with him the two holy grails of Doom history (sorry Bob!). More specific to Evans is the remnants of his Odessa series, which has now been washed of its draconian distribution clause. The other, yet to materialize, is a complete archive of the Compuserve Action Games database, which no doubt contains other missing relics of the past. ODESSA_1 is the first entry in the series, of course, released in 1995. According to Evans, it grew from old Dungeons and Dragons character he had by the same name, which explains his penchant for castles, dungeons, and adventure-game stylings. Here, you have to square off in an arena against three different challengers. Later installations carry a bit more story.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The UCA series

as featured in Super Serials


To some people, 1994 will always be the worst year of Doom PWADs. To others, be they antiquarians, historians, or just Doom lovers in general, there's a lot of joy to be had in these Promethean works. To be fair, there were still a lot of maps that sucked, but paving over '94 entirely does a grave disservice to the authors that stood above the rest. Eddie Nguyen seemed to have a pretty good grasp on level design, and while his maps have foibles intolerable to modern players (not truly balanced for pistol start, mazes, cramped, repetition, mandatory "secrets"), they are pretty evocative and come with some fairly dense .TXT descriptions that eventually taper off to author commentaries. Nguyen wanted to make a whole episode, too, and you see how that panned out. At least he managed to cap it off, unlike the sorely unresolved INVADE...


by Eddie Nguyen

Eddie Nguyen started the UCA series conceived as an episode replacement for The Shores of Hell, released on a level-by-level basis. I think he ran out of steam, though - SAPIDUSB is the finale, the last level published. It's a single map for the original Doom, occupying the E2M4 slot. If you haven't been keeping up, the demons built a base in the Uca Crater on Deimos from stuff they scavenged from Phobos. The UAC sent two waves of marines to inspect the goings-on. You were part of the squad sent to rescue them, but it turns out the demons have a "pulse cannon" capable of taking down starships and after the rest of your team dies, it's up to you to infiltrate the base and shut down the cannon for good so that your ship, the Gateway, can rescue your ass. This time, you have some objectives - disable the four power generators in the corners of the base and then eliminate the massive computer brain in the center so that the pulse cannon is gone for good.

Sunday, May 25, 2014


by Eddie Nguyen

DIOPATRA is the third map in Eddie Nguyen's UCA series, which started with UCA and moved on to TALPOIDA before moving on to this. They're all single maps released for Doom in 1994; this one occupies the E2M3 slot as they're meant to be played consecutively with carryovers. The previous two levels had voluminous .TXT backstories. Here, Nguyen is savvy enough to realize that, since the story hasn't changed much (you're still trying to blow up a "pulse cannon" that is capable of destroying the ship you hope will rescue you and any other UAC fleet vessel), he should skip the setup. Instead, he talks about his choice of monsters, what the map's design is, and how much harder it is than the previous levels for a pistol start.

Thursday, May 22, 2014


by Eddie Nguyen

TALPOIDA, released by Eddie Nguyen in 1994, is the second map in the UCA series. As it was intended to be played consecutively after UCA, it occupies the E2M2 slot of the original Doom. TALPOIDA continues the action of the first level, detailing the marine's invasion of Deimos's Uca Crater. I guess you didn't finish your job, but you are a lot deeper in the enemy installation. The story in the .TXT is mostly delivered via a transcript of your audio log. Unsurprisingly, the rest of your squad is dead, and the demons have a big freakin' gun of their own, capable of bringing down starships. As you penetrate further into the base, you're intent on taking down a "pulse laser cannon". It was strong enough to take down the Aquarius - the ship from the previous lost unit - so it can probably destroy the Gateway, and that's your ticket out of here.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Fractal Doom (FD_ZD_V0.2.4B.WAD)

Fractal Doom is... interesting. It's an unusual gameplay mod from Doomworld Forum superstar Scroton that debuted in 2013. I'm reviewing the ZDoom version at rev 0.2.4b, so I expect this summary to become eventually outdated. I like surprises, though! Fractal Doom is rooted on the concept of fractals, something I'm completely unqualified to discuss. You might be familiar with fractal imagery, where a large pattern is iterated upon by itself on a smaller and smaller scale, creating wonderful, complex imagery. This is the crux of Fractal Doom, played out in enemy and weapon behavior. This review documents a snapshot of the 0.2.4b release for ZDoom, so if something is different, it's Zrev modding.

Friday, May 16, 2014


by Eddie Nguyen

Not to be confused with anything UAC, UCA is a single map for Doom released by Eddie Nguyen back in 1994. It's the beginning of a series of single releases that were ultimately meant to be played as a series (the UCA series, duh), so if you plan to move on to the next bit - TALPOIDA - make sure you load it along with UCA so that you don't subject yourself to some survival-style gameplay. This one occupies the E2M1 slot, by the way. The .TXT has a fairly well-developed plot detailing the goings-on at the Uca Crater on Mars's Deimos moon. I thought it ended up in Hell, but I guess it came back after you saved the universe? The story suggests that Phobos was the only incident that ever happened. Anyway, demons are building a base in the Uca Crater using stuff they stole from Phobos, and the previous teams that established this information are all dead. You're the only surviving member of the third team, and after a close encounter you get a second chance to complete your mission.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The KBOOM Series

by Kurt Kesler

as featured in Super Serials


Kurt Kesler made a ton of levels spanning 1997-2001. KMEGA1 encompasses his vanilla works, comprised of KMETL, KBASE and KBRICK, and KHILLS were source port agnostic (limit-removing) maps. KBOOM is a bit more obvious; all of these levels were made to be played in Team TNT's then new Boom engine and use many of its extra editing features. Looking at the list on TNT's webpage here, I think Kesler took advantage of almost all of them. Deep water and faux-3D floors had been around in vanilla with some sector voodoo, but Boom explicitly supported these tricks. Other things like silent teleporters, scrolling floors, and translucence are neat effects that Kurt uses here and there. Well, he uses silent teleporters a lot.


by Kurt Kesler

Kurt Kesler finished his KBOOM series in 1998. Then he made another Boom map, Beyond Death, inspired by Quake II. Finally, after dabbling in ZDoom, he came back one last time to do another KBOOM level, the twelfth and truly final installation of the series. Unless, of course, he comes out of retirement to do it up again, like he did with Still Kickin. KBOOM12 is Kesler's last Boom-exclusive MAP01 replacement, published in 2000. This ending to KBOOM is, unsurprisingly, a base level, with two large natural areas to the east and west that break up the map's visuals. Shocking, though, is this blurb in the description - "You land in a telepad in the enemy base, and try to escape."

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Beyond Death (K_BD.WAD)

by Kurt Kesler

Kurt Kesler made a ton (11) of KBOOM levels before making Beyond Death, another 1998 MAP01 replacement to be played in Boom. Presumably, he wanted to distance it from his other works because it was inspired by Quake II rather than adhering to his range of BASE, METL or BRICK. In spite of being inspired by Quake II, it doesn't have any Quake II-ish textures. Rather, it just uses the original Doom assets (with a bit of editing) to create an aesthetic that's different and reminds me in some ways of The Darkening's E2, though the feeling is very vague.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014


by Kurt Kesler

KBOOM_11 is the last map of Kurt Kesler's original KBOOM run, a MAP01 replacement released in - brace yourself - 1998, to be played in TNT's Boom engine. Kesler thought he was done, at least. Beyond Death, which had Quake 2 as its inspiration, and then KBOOM12 found its way to the archives in 2000. As such, Kesler decided to take things into his less-prolific castle theme. It also ratchets up the difficulty, though it's very much a Kurt map, just not as forgiving with monster placement. You won't have to worry about running out of ammo. Health, though - that's another story.

Sunday, May 4, 2014


by Kurt Kesler

Kurt Kesler carries on his self improvement through experience plan with KBOOM_10, the search for more bases. Released in 1998, this MAP01 replacement for the Boom engine is part of his KBOOM series, a glut of levels with a similar purpose in mind - use Team TNT's added map features to enhance the look and gameplay of Doom levels. He would eventually move on to try ZDoom as well with the KZDOOM series, but that is another tale for another time. KBOOM levels tend to be small, punchy, and base maps. KBOOM_10 is no different, but there are some details that differentiate it from its brethren.

Thursday, May 1, 2014


by Kurt Kesler

KBOOM_9 is a MAP01 replacement for Doom II, released by Kurt Kesler in 1998 to be played in the Boom engine. Kurt had briefly tried to go back to source port agnostic levels but apparently despaired of doing so as the allure of Boom editing was too strong; he'd make a few more past this one, finally releasing KBOOM12 in 2000, then having embraced ZDoom. I think that he was going to collect the Boom maps into their own megaWAD - the KMEGA2 to the vanilla levels' KMEGA1 - but he either never got around to it or never intended to.