Nods to Mods - Interview with the duo behind DOUBLE IMPACT
In case you missed it, players of our latest releases of DOOM and DOOM II can now download and play DOUBLE IMPACT – a skillfully made Add-On that tests your DOOM skills not as a guns-blazing Marine, but as a crafty and clever UAC mechanic!
We took some time to interview RottKing and Ralphis, the creators of this awesome mod. Read on, fellow Slayers!
SLAYERS CLUB: Time for introductions! Tell us a little about yourselves.
ROTTKING: Matthew Cibulas, I'm the ancient age of 32 and I live in Connecticut.
RALPHIS: Ralph Vickers. Born and raised in Philadelphia, recently moved to the Tampa Bay area. Young and beautiful at 32. I enjoy DOOM deathmatches, writing music and long walks on the beach.
SC: How long have you guys been making DOOM mods/levels?
ROTTKING: About 15 years now, according to my first DOOM map labeled “s***map9.wad” from 2005. Some of my Duke Nukem 3D levels date back as far as 1998 though, when I was a wee lil’ pissant.
RALPHIS: The made my first maps ever back in 1999 when I discovered WadAuthor, so about 21 years since I got started. It wasn’t until 2002 that I started putting out work that people noticed.
SC How big was your team to make this full episode replacement?
ROTTKING: Just me and Ralphis.
RALPHIS: Yep, just me and RottKing as far as mapping. We did have a number of playtesters that gave a lot of quality feedback. It is worth name dropping them as they played a big part in making this such a complete episode: infurnus, esselfortium, dewww, Alfonzo, NaturalTvventy, Xenaero, glortho, JoshSmith and whiteboy567.
SC: What tools did you use to create this full episode replacement?
ROTTKING: Doom Builder. Maybe Doom Builder 2?
RALPHIS: Doom Builder for mapping. Wintex and XWE for lump management.
SC: What was your main inspiration for this full episode replacement?
ROTTKING: Originally, we didn't have any inspiration in mind. It merely started as a one-off collaborative mapping project between me and Ralphis. When we started, I don't think we had an entire episode in mind but once we made a few levels we decided to try our hand at making an entire episode.
RALPHIS: Yeah, when we started it was kind of an experiment just to see what would happen. Unlike many collaborations where mappers are responsible for their own maps within a pack, we would sometimes simply make a single room or hallway and then send it back to the other person to continue. I think that eventually the maps started becoming so elaborate and refined that we knew we had to flesh it out into a full episode.
SC: What’s your individual approach to level design? And how that did work when collaborating?
ROTTKING: Most of my early Duke Nukem 3D and DOOM levels were competitive multiplayer maps, like Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, etc.
With those kinds of maps you usually want as little fluff as possible - fairly wide open spaces, clean and streamlined designs that don't have a lot of visual noise or messy things to hinder the player's movement. So when I make single player maps I think those kinds of design habits are still there and Ralphis' mapping style is pretty similar for the same reasons, so I think we meshed well because of that.
RALPHIS: Absolutely. Like RottKing, I cut my teeth for over a decade working on multiplayer maps before we started on our first DOUBLE IMPACT map. The multiplayer side of the community is really where I’ve spent most of my time and effort, so those mapping practices are hard wired. RottKing and I had collaborated a lot right before this on UniDoom Deathmatch X (more commonly known as UDMX) so we already had an idea of how we worked together. I’ve worked with dozens of people over two decades and can still say that RottKing is my favorite person to collaborate with.
One thing that I absolutely have to give credit to RottKing for is the monster placement in DOUBLE IMPACT. He carried the load there and the work that he put in really shows. Almost every monster was placed in a way that would drive the player into making quick decisions that would shape each battle early. He also created a lot of devious traps that are pretty twisted. We had a lot of feedback from players early in development that the traps in DOUBLE IMPACT are frustrating but in a way that is fun and makes you laugh. You can learn to overcome most of the traps by using your weapons and movement carefully, rather than relying on your skills to fight out of a slaughterfest.
SC: When planning a full episode replacement, we really respect your ambition in picking Episode 1: Knee-Deep in The Dead, as it’s probably the most famous set of DOOM levels known worldwide. What was your thinking in taking a full replacement of Episode 1 head on?
ROTTKING: I think it was around the time of half way through E1M2, when I started to heavily look at the elements of Knee-Deep in the Dead and even the DOOM alpha, seeing what recurring design elements were present and trying to implement some of that stuff into our own episode. At the same time, we also wanted to make our episode more difficult compared to the original. DOUBLE IMPACT has quite a reputation for being stingy on health at times and some evil traps that were probably my doing, lol.
RALPHIS: I’m not sure anything tops Knee-Deep in the Dead. For many, including myself, that unique mixture of browns, tans, greens and blues is etched into our memories from when we were kids. I’m not sure that we intended to stick strictly to an Episode 1 style texture set at the beginning, but it did play out that way.
It makes sense, too. RottKing came up with the rough story for the episode. You’re just a regular ol’ mechanic on the base when all Hell breaks loose. Your main goal is to make it to the Launch Bay and escape with your life. Many of the locations resemble that of Knee-Deep in the Dead but there are a lot of areas of the episode that you’ll see bits of influence from The Shores of Hell and Inferno that creep in as the base is overtaken by the enemy.
SC: What were the biggest challenges or hurdles in making this full episode replacement?
ROTTKING: For me personally, one of the most difficult things was when I decided to add the fancy outdoor lighting and shadow casting to the maps. The episode was ready to be released, but I really liked how E1M7 looked with the dramatic lighting and shadows outside and wanted to do it across the entire episode, effectively opening a can of worms for myself right at the finish line. Stress!
RALPHIS: The biggest hurdles were when we would both get struck with mapper’s block and a map might sit for a couple weeks before anything happened. One nice thing was that we didn’t really hype this WAD up, so we didn’t feel like we had to meet any deadlines. We were hardest on ourselves when we would get mapper’s block. In the end it would usually work to our benefit and we would find ways to turn garbage into gold.
SC: How long did it take you to complete this full episode replacement?
ROTTKING: About a year and a half, I think.
RALPHIS: That sounds right. The first file I still have on hand is dated November 9, 2009, and we released on March 30, 2011, so just a little under a year and a half.
SC: Tell us about your music selections throughout the .WAD…
ROTTKING: Ralph wrote some new music for our episode which I really liked, but at the time I felt like I wanted to use a lot of DOOM's original music as well. Looking back on it now though, I think I should've let Ralph write a few more songs...
RALPHIS: I like the original DOOM music for the episode though. I curbed my want for all-original music because I didn’t want to seem like a vain jerk, ha ha! If I had created the WAD entirely by myself, I think I would’ve had a fully original soundtrack - but this was a partnership. I think the level set has a nice balance between new stuff and the classic DOOM soundtrack.
SC: Who are your favorite modders in the DOOM community or some of your favorite things they’ve done? ROTTKING: I don't know if I really have a clear favorite of mine, but I love my Doomtwid and UniDoom crew - they know who they are!
RALPHIS: There’s some self-indulgence here but I’ve been a part of the Unidoom clan for the past two decades and it has produced a really elite group of mappers that helped shape the multiplayer community in a way that usually doesn’t get the same recognition that the single player side receives.
All of the UniDoom members that worked on the UDM deathmatch WADs like deathz0r, RottKing, AlexMax and Nautilus. Many of these people also played a part in shaping the Capture the Flag, dueling, and modding communities at large. Other shout-outs go to KBlair, Slimhazzard, Xenaero, Scuba Steve and finally the Odamex team, which has a lot of smart guys that are very fun to be around and work with.
SC: What was both of your first experiences with DOOM?
ROTTKING: I remember being enthralled by DOOM even though I played it after DOOM II. Mt. Erebus especially was a map I found really interesting as a kid.
Ralphis: My first exposure to DOOM was actually on the often-mocked SEGA 32X version of the game. I spent probably hundreds of hours playing through the 15 or so maps in this version when I was seven or eight years old. I will always have a soft spot for this version of the game, including its reviled version of the soundtrack. As a kid and even now, the music just sounds so much more twisted than the rock MIDI versions. My family didn’t get a computer in the house until 1999 which was when I bought the Depths of DOOM Trilogy. I’ve been playing ever since.
SC:What got you guys into DOOM modding in the first place?
ROTTKING: I always enjoyed making things for games. If a game had an editor, I was all over it as a kid. I loved messing around with Duke Nukem 3D, Warcraft 2 and 3, Worms Armageddon and some others. I also thoroughly enjoyed using old game maker software such as Klik & Play and The Games Factory.
Naturally, when I started getting into DOOM again in 2003, eventually I wanted to try making my own stuff for the game. Having great tools to use like Doom Builder was definitely a factor, as well as the thriving multiplayer communities on ZDaemon and Skulltag (Now known as Zandronum).
RALPHIS: It was always an ambition of mine to create my own video games as a kid. I eventually found that my DOOM Master Levels disc had hundreds of user made levels called “Maximum DOOM”. Once I figured out how to run them in Doom 95, my eyes were opened and I jumped down the rabbit hole. Eventually I found websites like DoomWorld, DoomNation (RIP), and DoomHQ (RIP) that helped me learn more about editing. I think that the simplicity and versatility of the DOOM engine is what keeps people coming back to it nearly 30 years after its release.
SC: What are you most looking forward to in DOOM ETERNAL?
ROTTKING: Probably messing around with the new gameplay mechanics like the grappling hook, having an air dash, the little shoulder mounted turret, etc. (Invasion) also seems like it could be pretty fun.
RALPHIS: I’m really digging that the game looks to have an element of humor to it. If you look at the original designs of the DOOM monsters, they were scary to a kid while being comical, too.
I also love that in an industry that has really leaned on gray and brown color palettes over the past 15 years, DOOM Eternal embraces the entire color wheel and looks beautiful for it. It looks like DOOM (2016) with the dial turned up to 11. We need more games like this.
SC: Wanna give any other shoutouts?
ROTTKING: Shoutouts to UniDoom, YEDS, Doomworld and Doomtwid. Also the fine folk at id Software such as Sponge and Kevin Cloud. Peace out, play Tekken!
RALPHIS: A huge shoutout to UniDoom, the Odamex team, the World Doom League and Doomworld for keeping DOOM so fun and a major part of my whole life. Big props to the team at id, especially Sponge, for keeping classic DOOM alive and well. My brother Robbie, who was one of the first people to play and work on custom maps with me. And, of course, my Mom and my wife Sarah, too! UD ON TOP!