First, there were the vanilla Kesler maps, collected in KMEGA1. Then came the KBOOM levels, which Kesler almost discontinued due to bitching about his mapping for Boom, but wisely ignored. Finally, KZDOOM, where Kurt fudges around with ZDoom's advanced features. KZDOOM2 is - duh - the second of Kesler's experiments, this one with the unusual distinction of a title - "Cacodemons Revenge". There's actually a tiny intro and outro to this effect, plus a seemingly never-ending trickle of big red balls, so as far as story goes Kesler has absolutely delivered, with the exception that the cacodemons do not get their revenge. You're the fuckin' Doom marine, after all. If you played KZDOOM1 and had your stomach turn at some of the monster and sound changes, don't despair. The only real thing change here is the faster shotgun.
Carballo's Pick Me! utility throws me a softball for my first foray. Three of these levels are deathmatch, and three of them I've already played before in one form or another, so I decided to be generous and include my flamingo-up, since I misread SQUID22 as SQUID2 and played the original SQUID. My first /random test spawned TRENCH, so that's also thrown in at the end. All in all, a few hilarious levels mixed in with a playable retread of E1M1 and the pretty cool XENO11.
Daniel Griffiths was one of Doom's early custom contributors, though looking in the past it seems as though he tended more toward the side of deathmatch in his level design. Xenomorph is no exception, but the level's size gives it a bit more character on top of the fact that co-op play was factored in. That's not to say that the author gave single player a pass. In fact, you're encouraged to load it up and run around outside with God mode on to watch the light show. Why ruin a perfectly good game of dodgeball with cheat codes, though?
I am pretty darn sure that the same person who made Squid also made Squid 2. Both levels are E1M1 replacements that have the same bizarre 1980 time stamp, crude workarounds to deal with design staples that apparently hadn't been quite figured out, and optional areas locked behind yellow key doors that were presumably meant to power you up for the final conflict. Both showed up as Doom II conversions in Maximum Doom, but I would rather play the original, which I've done.
SQUID is an E1M1 replacement with an absurd timestamp dating to 1980, but its presence on Maximum Doom nails down its origin to 1995, at the very latest. I think that the author went on to make a sequel, SQUID2, which is about as hilariously dated as this old thing. Whoever made it, it's clear that some of the fundamental design elements we take for granted had not yet taken root, not that that's a bad thing. It just makes SQUID a perfect snapshot of the wild west days of PWADcraft.
Even the /idgames archive has standards. The first, of course, is "Don't upload anything that's based on or modified versions of the original levels of any of the id Software games." There are two assumptions behind the reason for this rule, but I can't remember which one is true. The first is legal in nature but doesn't make a whole lot of sense since no one should care if you upload a MAP01 edit that's crammed full of Cyberdemons. I mean, you still have to play it in Doom II, which is where MAP01 came from, though I admit the situation gets murky when Doom levels are getting converted into Doom II versions and uploaded, removing the need for DOOM.WAD. I prefer the second reason, that if /idgames had NOT restricted uploads of IWAD edits, we'd be up to our eyeballs in rehashed browns, turning the archives into a cesspool of "my first time fucking around in a map editor with an IWAD level", and it conveniently covers the legal reason in addition to quality control.
Lehrer and Tillier published Trench, a concept deathmatch level of sorts, very early on in Doom's history in May of 1994. It's an E1M1 replacement that's from a time when people still fancied populating deathmatch levels with monsters. The actual level is pretty small and has some twenty or so enemies as sergeants and imps, which are a mild annoyance in single player. I mean, you might get gunned down by shotgun snipers, but there isn't a whole lot of threat involved and all of the gameplay is concentrated in the two main tiers of play.
Doomed indeed. When id published the Master Levels for Doom II (release them as freeware already, you dicks!), they decided to do their own shovelware compilation, the now infamous Maximum Doom. The execution seems just as sloppy as any of the non-id PWAD scrapes, with missing .TXT files, Doom originals that were "converted" to Doom II via a cold, unfeeling utility, and amusing oversights like the inclusion of Heretic maps. I will say that it's a pretty good snapshot of what the user community was like at the time, a hot mess of sector savants and simpletons coming together in a blood tornado.
Since enough people have asked, I've decided to dip my toes in and see how the other half lives. I grabbed a copy of Maximum Doom and a utility by Matias Nahuel Carballo, called "Pick Me!". This won't be a regular thing, but I'm going to spin the wheel and write up the nine PWADs that come up. I won't be giving deathmatch levels proper reviews, and there's actually some overlap between the PWADs that I've already played and the stuff that's on Maximum Doom, so I'll give some brief summaries and link their reviews. Of invaluable worth is Funduke's Maximum Doom Reference guide. I'll be consulting it against every entry; some may consider the author to be the patron saint of /idgames dogshit, but I can't help but appreciate his stalwart chronicling of Doom's early days.
Also, while I'm sure it's an essential part of the Maximum Doom experience, I'm not going to play the shitty conversions unless I absolutely have to. Using Funduke's guide I've tracked down the originals, and that's what the reviews will be written on.
Shamus Young gets lost in the shuffle of authors from Doom's formative period, but if he's remembered for anything, it's probably Doom City. A MAP01 replacement from 1995, this Doom II level did some clever things that no one else had really attempted at the time, at least not to the degree Shamus had done. While the first impulse of many authors was to recreate things familiar to them like their houses, schools, and places of work, Shamus set about making a little city, with graphic replacements to boot. Now, nothing here will meet the realism of the BUILD engine games, but Shamus's texture replacements have a certain unified fidelity about them in all their PAINT-ish glory.
by Andrew "Linguica" Stine, Ray "Shtbag667" Schmitz,
Jacob "Darksoul" Kastner, "Volteface", "Fiend", Mike "Cyb" Watson,
Simon "_5hifty" Rance, Chris "Chopkinsca" Hopkins, Boris "boris" Iwanski,
Maximillian Augustus "Blackfish" Daley, "Scrum", and Josh "Earthquake" Simpson
The 1024 fad hit Doomworld pretty hard. In some ways, it still hasn't recovered, though 2048 may yet take its place. 1024 levels limit the playable space to 1024 x 1024 units; the challenge to the author is to create a level that avoids feeling as restrictive as it truly is. Before the Cacoward winning Congestion / Claustrophobia 1024, though, there was 2004's Exquisite Corpse, from where 1024 ultimately originated. The project got its cues from a surrealist parlour game where authors join together to create sentences and images, the caveat being that each player can only see the very edges of what the previous author did.
Lisa Moore was one of the peripheral authors of Team TNT. She contributed a handful of deathmatch maps to a few projects (Pursuit, Eternal Deathmatch) and has one single player level to her name - Soldier of Fortune. It's a MAP01 replacement for Doom II, released in late 1997. The story and setting peg it as one of those single-location mansion style levels, as it's set after the events of Doom II, when the Doom marine a highly sought-after combatant due to the experience that comes with the name. While residing in your mansion, there's an intrusion, which wouldn't ordinarily concern a badass of your caliber, except it turns out to be no ordinary home invasion.
Some people like their Doom maps to be huge adventures or action-packed epics. Others prefer something short and sweet. Erik Alm's Scythe is the premiere Popcorn Doom mapset, a megaWAD that's composed of small levels that take a minute or two to finish. Released in 2003, it appears to take some of its cues from classic author Adam Windsor, known for his ability to crop up in classic mapsets. Windsor's Demonfear was a mapset composed of short levels that were fun to just gun through, and some levels originally meant for that project ended up in Requiem, among them a level titled "Chaos Zone", which bears a striking resemblance to Scythe's MAP32, "Enoz Soahc". Coincidence? You be the judge.
Muskadet is a single level for Doom II, released by Doomworld Forum superstar franckFRAG in 2014. franckFRAG is a member of the French Doom Community's talented stable of authors, but the vast majority of his available material is a bunch of small, action-packed speed maps spread out over 3 Heures d'Agonie, its sequel, and franckFRAG's own Swift Death. When he actually takes the time to build out a more traditional map, it's a memorable experience, with his contribution to Interception becoming one of the WAD's major highlights. Muskadet is not remotely the same thing as "Vertigo Plant", but in the context of the rest of his work, a level like this makes more sense to me in some ways... and less in others.
Plenty of people loathe the early days of Doom PWADs. I'm more in author Chris Kassap's camp; there's a lot of raw weirdness in Doom's first few years that I find endearing if for nothing else than the raw enthusiasm that authors had for making and sharing their works. Nebula 95 tries to channel some of that free-wheeling spirit, but there's no disguising it. Chris is too immaculate a designer to fit in with his pretended peers. Frank Zappa once named The Shaggs as his #3 favorite band, I imagine because the Wiggins felt like a holy grail of sorts, a band whose members were making music while lacking any preconceived notions about what music was supposed to sound like, or what its message should be. Kassman, however, has clearly eaten from the tree of knowledge, and while that doesn't stop one from appreciating works of comparative innocence, the consequence leaves him a marked man.
DROWN STONE CASSETTE B
by Chris "lupinx-Kassman" Kassap
This ended up being the first of the Nebula 95 levels to appear on the archive, but Drown Stone began life as part of the Doomworld Secret Santa project. There are a few big differences between this edition and the previous, but if you've played the original level, the gameplay is basically identical to my eyes, excepting the Nebula 95 intro map on the saucer. It's got an amusing background story. Since Kassman used a stewboy track for the first version (part of his stewboy imitation), Cassette B is offered as an alternative more in spirit with the gives-no-fucks attitude of Nebula 95. The choice is left to you, as beads of sweat pour down Doomguy's forehead since he can't make the decision himself.