John Romero’s “Tech Gone Bad”

John Romero, one of the designers of the original Doom games released a new level yesterday.  This is the first level he is releasing in around 21 years (before this, he designed two of the levels in the original Doom expansion, The Ultimate Doom, in 1995).  This new level is his first non-commercial release, it replaces E1M8 of the original game, and I played through it yesterday.  Here are my comments about it.

John Romero's Tech Gone BadE1M8: “Phobos Anomaly”, the last level of Episode 1 “Knee-Deep in the Dead” of the original game was a significant one, since it featured the first “bosses” of Doom, two Barons of Hell (also called the “Bruiser Brothers”).  The original level was considerably short, and after you got through the first seven levels (or eight, if you played the secret E1M9 level), you fought the bosses and then exited the level.  [SPOILER: Once you killed the two barons, a teleporter is revealed and you pass through it to come to a dark room, where you are fired upon by many monsters and the level ends as a ‘cliffhanger’.]  That level was created by Sandy Petersen (who designed much of Episodes 2 and 3).

You could say, this level (according to the text file, it’s called “Tech Gone Bad“) is a reboot or reimagining of the ending map.  It is designed only using the original Doom Episode 1’s resources (so no graphics or items from later Episodes seen).  It syncs up well with the original levels’ look and feel (that’s not so surprising, considering that John Romero himself was the one who created most of the original Episode 1 maps).  However, for a level made in 2015/6, it obviously is more polished than the older levels.

The level flows really well, you start off in a tech base surrounded by radioactive ooze all around, and streaks of hot red lava indicate that hell is transforming the entire place slowly.  There are a couple of neighbouring buildings which you would need to gradually gain access to.  After the starting base area, there are primarily two major sections in the level – one after you get the yellow key card, and the one after you get the red key card.  It’s probably not so much of a spoiler, but the ending of the level has you facing two Barons of Hell, and multiple other monsters.  Once you kill the Barons, the exit teleporter is revealed and when you pass through it, the level ends in a similar way as the original E1M8.

I really enjoyed playing through the level and figuring out the route to the exit.  You would have to work things out but I liked that there was no unnecessary key or switch hunting required.  The difficulty level is quite high, probably comparable to that of Romero’s E4M6 from The Ultimate Doom.  This is thanks to many shotgunners and you having to wade through pools of radioactive nukage.  I played the level on Skill 1 and completed it, at Skill 4, there are close to 300 monsters on the map.

The visuals are very nice, the map looked really interesting had a good variation of heights.  You would go to rooftops, and down tunnels with ooze, and there are ambushes that would remind you of certain aspects from the original Episode 1 levels.  Lighting and colour were all really nice too.  The map looked good without being overly detailed.

John Romero's Tech Gone BadThis level was built with Pascal vd Heiden’s Doom Builder 2.  I am not sure why Romero decided to make a level for Doom all of a sudden, but it’s a really nice thing for all Doom fans.  He mentioned in the text file that it’s a warm up.  I wonder what for!

It has been a long time since I played and reviewed a Doom level.  If you’ve been following me on Instagram (@karthikabhiram), then you know that on 31-Dec-15, I bought myself a new laptop after 5 years, a Dell XPS 13.  This post is being written on that laptop, and I also played the level (with the ZDoom engine) on it.

If you want to download and play the level yourself, you can do so here (this is a Dropbox link that John Romero posted in his tweet, which I’ve embedded below).  You will need a copy of the either the Doom shareware WAD (doom1.wad) or the full Doom / Ultimate Doom WAD (for that you would need to purchase the game).

Extras

I had also released a Doom Episode 1 tribute map back in 2002, called The Other Side of Phobos.  At that time, it took me about a month to make, and I had a good time making it.  I think it’s a fun little map to play.  If you would like to play that, you can check it out here.  The rest of my Doom levels are available here (I mainly did maps for Doom II).

Since Romero’s level runs on E1M8, you will be listening to the track “Sign of Evil” by Robert Prince.  Over the years, Doom’s music has been remixed many times, but in my opinion, this moody atmospheric version called “Doomed” by Rimco (released 16 years ago) is one of the best versions of that track.  You can listen to it on YouTube below, or download the MP3 from here.

I posted about John Romero’s level on Instagram, and that happened to be the 2000th post on my account there.  I have embedded that as well, below.

John Romero has released a new Doom level! For those not familiar with it, Doom is a classic videogame released by id Software in 1993. John Romero was one of the designers behind the game and made many of the levels for it. The game allowed fans to make their own add-on levels for it, and after 21 years, Romero himself has released a new level for the original game. Why is this so important that I would write about it? You see, many years ago, myself and my brother used to make add-on Doom levels (and we have released quite a few of those, available on our respective websites). Here is a photo of me playing that level, at 3200 × 1800 resolution on my new laptop (with the ZDoom engine, yes, I installed ZDoom a few days ago). The level is quite large and difficult, sort of like Romero's work on E4M6 from "The Ultimate Doom". This level replaces E1M8. This photo was taken by Varun, I edited it in Lightroom. I didn't play through till the end of the level (died midway through it, mutated in the expansive area of radioactive nukage all around the level). Will play it once again and write more about it. BTW this is my 2000th post on Instagram.

A post shared by Karthik Abhiram (@karthikabhiram) on

That’s about it for this post, the first post of 2016 on this blog!  I resolve to be more active this year (the whole of last year, I only made one post here).