Friday, May 6, 2011

More Than I Can Chew?

I'm not going to say that I'm an expert Doom player; no, I have my good and bad days like everyone else. But when it comes to "vanilla" Doom and the original IWADs, I can tend to get bored just like anyone else. Some gamers have told me that Doom is too repetitive for their liking, and in the case of maps I've already played through several times I have to agree. Without cheating, I can generally complete the average Doom map with health, armor and ammo all maxed, or at least very close. Sometimes when playing on the default difficulty settings I feel a bit like Neo in The Matrix; the enemy projectiles seem to move so slowly that I just casually step out of the way and keep firing. It's because of this that I rarely play the original id releases these days; I'm experienced enough that I simply need something more challenging.

Being a modder as well as a player who loves the game, I'm always looking for ways to mod the game to make it even more enjoyable. Thus I started investigating how to add new and more challenging enemies to the game to help keep it interesting.

As its name implies, Snarboo's Doom Monster Randomizer for GZDoom adds unpredictability to those classic Doom maps we've all by now memorized inside and out. Yet it doesn't just shuffle around the existing enemies; it also adds to the game some rather interesting new variations of those monsters taken from the Realm667 Beastiary. I've tried similar randomizers by other authors, as well as the resources from ScoreDoom and SkullTag, but in the end I don't like them because they're way too "over-the-top". What I mean by this is that they add things that IMHO don't feel like they belong in Doom, like flying spell-casting wizards from Heretic or Hexen or just silly things that simply annoy me like the zombie soldier who zips around on a Segway scooter and tries to run over you with it. Many players will disagree with me and rave about how great these other add-ons are, and that's fine if that's what you like. I simply prefer to have new content added without making it feel like I'm playing a total conversion of the game.

I'm not going to describe here every monster included in Snarboo's mod, but I do want to mention some of the most noteworthy ones that have prompted me to choose it over other similar add-ons. Overall they tend to make any given map more difficult than it's author perhaps intended, but in the cases of maps I've memorized and become bored with that's really the whole point. These aren't just recolored or semi-transparent versions of the default monsters; they have new, unique and deadlier attacks that definitely increase the challenge level of even the tamest levels. I should also mention that, like the following image of the Flesh Wizard, my screenshots here really do not do the new creatures justice. Seeing them in action and actually trying to fight them is where they are truly the most impressive. Besides, anybody who loves Doom already knows that it's all about the gameplay experience, not eye-candy.

The Flesh Wizard mutters something unintelligible and zips around so quickly that you'll only have a split-second to target him; he becomes invisible while doing so and reappears just long enough to throw a fireball at you and then takes off again.

Soul Harvester Imps throw flaming skull projectiles that, like the missiles of the famous Revenants, will follow you around corners quite persistently, though they can be eluded. Stone Demons (not pictured here) explode when they die, causing you extra damage while the little pieces of them bouncing around will also inflict damage. Cyberbarons have rocket-launcher arms like their big brother the Cyberdemon. The Tortured Soul is a version of the Pain Elemental that, rather than Lost Souls, spits at you a lingering toxic green cloud and when he is killed more of this green gunk will spew forth to damage you if you're not careful. I could go on, but surely you're getting the idea; new versions of the monsters with new deadlier attacks.

So, why did I title this post the way that I have?
After recently sharing Snarboo's mod with one of my avid readers, I decided to crack it open with an editor to see if I could make heads or tails of its inner workings; I am a modder, after all. Well, while I don't understand enough of it yet to draw up something similar of my own from scratch, I did manage to figure out how to change the frequency of the spawns and even how to replace some of the monsters and add new ones as well. So I popped on over to the Realm667 Beastiary to see what Snarboo had left out of his little collection. That's where I may have "bitten off more than I can chew", as they say.

To make a long story short, now I've got in my game monsters with projectile attacks two or three times faster than the normal attacks, soldiers with super shotguns that will blast a sizable hole in me if they catch me off-guard, jumping Demons and Demons with projectile attacks, self-resurrecting Revenants with laser attacks, semi-invisible Cacodemons with me-seeking projectiles, things that throw meteors or shower flaming spheres down upon me... again, I could go on and on, but you get the idea. Snarboo's mod was a good start by itself, but now my game has suddenly gone from predictable to hard-core almost over-night.

Now I'm no longer finishing levels with full health and maxed ammo; now I end each level wondering if I've got enough stuff left to be able to survive starting the next level. Now I find myself peering timidly around dark corners, praying that there will be a medkit or some ammo there, or in the very least one of the default monsters I'll be able to handle without getting reamed. I wanted more challenge and unpredictability... but maybe I should have been more careful what I had wished for...

So, if you're one of those players who enjoys Doom but has found that it has lost some of its thrill, do yourself a favor and grab Snarboo's Doom Monster Randomizer. And if you're inclined to be like me and want to try to make your own monster randomizer, visit the Realm667 Beastiary where they have a wide variety of new monsters in both the Doom and the Heretic and Hexen styles. I think I've found enough variety there to keep myself Dooming for quite a while longer.


  1. Oh dear, what have I gotten myself into? Guess I'll find out right after I load this up...

    This is going to hurt, isn't it?

  2. Don't worry... you have the original version of Snarboo's mod. I won't send you my extreme hard-core version... unless you really want me to...

  3. Umm, let me think about that...

  4. BWA-HA-HA!

    Foolish monsters! You think you can stand against my army of demonic redheads?!

    ...Where is my army...?

    ...What do you mean I don't get companions in this game?


    ...I am so boned...

  5. Yes, the busty redheads are a no-go, I'm afraid.

    However, with the sourceports I use I believe it is possible to have "bots" to help you fight. By default they have the UAC Space Marine outfit, but I'm sure they could be given different sprites. After all, there's a female zombie pack on the Realm667 Beastiary...

  6. No doubt it is possible. The issue is how much trouble it is.

    I've found most non-Gamebryo games aren't that easy to set up followers for. They don't tend to have AI Packages, for example.

    I looked into adding some to STALKER once, and it would have been a not insubstantial amount of work.

    Since by default I'd assume DOOM's AI settings are "Kill him!" I'd expect it to be even more complex to add them here.