.: DooMster Unveiled: Inside the BossBrain

Spotlight on "Scuba" Stephen Browning: July 20, 2012

Do you like running around in virtual space, shooting off play-guns and slipping on your fingerless gloves to punch opponents senseless? Do you like staring at comic books and wondering what it would be like to slide into those panels and immerse yourself in an out-of-body experience? Do you like looking at pretty pictures that make you chuckle in glee? Well, then our next guest is your guy. 'Scuba' Steve has been a mainstay on the DooM scene for many years, and although he is trying to ease gracefully out of the community, he suddenly finds himself blinded by our spotlight. Forgive him his deer-in-headlights blinking, and read on.

DN: What's the first thing that pops into your mind when someone mentions the word 'DooM'?
Scuba Steve: E1M1. I spent years playing and modding Wolfenstein and was very familiar with the look and feel of those early FPS games. In 1994 my father installed 'Doom' on our 486 PC. Not to sound hyperbolic, but it was one of the few "defining" game experiences in my life. The visuals and sound were so real, so much more than anything I had ever played. The grunts of zombiemen, the shotgun; oh god that shotgun! The sound it made, the hand raising to reload the weapon! Everything was so visceral and beautiful! The entrance to E1M1 and the music are forever burned into my psyche as 'Doom'.

DN: You got your start with graphic edits for DooM, primarily consisting of new weapons. What made you take up graphic modifications of virtually all other aspects of DooM, and diversify into mapping?
Scuba Steve: It's easier. My sister and I would make MS paint weapon replacements those early years, truly silly stuff. Dithered red screen to shoot laser eyes, claw hands that shoot rockets. This was some really amateurish stuff and was even more shameful than artwork by Doom beginners today. Mapping just grew out of wanting to change MORE about the game. Like so many aspiring designers I wanted to kill demons in my high school. I spent a year learning mapping and recreating my school using DMapEdit. My mechanical drafting teacher thought it was pretty neat until Dylan and Eric ruined that.

DN: Before there was Action DooM or Urban Brawl there was Ghostbusters DooM. There appears only to be a demo released. Why was development stopped on this promising project?
Scuba Steve: I started working on Ghostbusters Doom when I was a sophomore in high school (1997?). It suffered from "Doom TC" syndrome where I was just painting Ghostbuster themes over Doom gameplay. We were all making TCs like that during those years... pick a popular movie/comic/show and append the word 'Doom' at the end; Batman Doom, Hellraiser Doom, Robocop Doom, Terminator Doom, Aliens Doom. Every year I was better at modding and illustrating until one day I just looked at the project and realized I would have to remake everything I had done because it was so amateurish. I just decided to release everything for people to play rather than continue working on a project I had no interest in completing.

DN: What gave you the idea to produce and develop Action DooM and Urban Brawl?
Scuba Steve: The original Action Doom was going to be made as my final project before I left the community. I didn't have any real projects attributed to me, just some artwork for others and the unfinished Ghostbusters Doom. I needed something complete that I could be proud to slap my name on, something epic. We would BS in the old #youfailit channel and try to outdo each other's ideas for what would go into Action Doom; jumping across cars on a highway, a giant slug that shoots acid that has a box on its back, a giant squid, nothing was off limits. Action Doom was done with mostly Dehacked work and after seeing what Cyb was able to do with ZDoom, I had an urge to do one more project. I had been playing with this idea of cel shaded graphics in Doom and wanted to try to fully realize it. Action Doom 2 was just supposed to be a silly play on Beat 'em Up games with a few lame cut scenes and ever more over-the-top events. Somewhere during the 4-year, Broussardian development cycle it became a more serious game. Urban Brawl was everything I wanted to ever create in Doom; a total conversion that showcased my artwork and creative ideas... and lackluster gameplay design.

DN: The art in Urban Brawl is more-or-less unique in the annals of DooM modifications, and appears to be inspired by comic-books. Are you a fan of comic-books (or "graphic novels", as they are now labeled), and, if so, which genre(s) are you most into?
Scuba Steve: I have read and enjoyed several comics but I wouldn't say I'm an aficionado. Dark Knight Returns, most of the Sin City series, Superman: Red Son, and I just picked up the RAGE comics for a few dollars so it is a pretty eclectic mix of material. I enjoy the medium, but I wouldn't call myself a huge fan.

DN: Which, if any, comics may have influenced the art of Urban Brawl (Sin City, by the talented Frank Miller, being an obvious example)?
Scuba Steve: Frank Miller's work was the biggest inspiration, even if he is an ass. I think I had just come off reading a few of the comics in the Sin City series around 2004 and was really inspired to imitate that style. Originally Urban Brawl was just going to have cheesy Final Fight style cut scenes, but that changed somewhere in development.

DN: This game brought together the likes of Mike 'Cyb' Watson, Mike 'Manc' Lightner, Ralph 'Ralphis' Vickers, and Darknation, big names on the DooM scene. Did the team ever feel like the so-called "supergroups" that formed in the late 1960s and early 1970s, where great talent constantly butted heads?
Scuba Steve: No. If I was really shooting for a supergroup, I would have drug Eriance or Esselfortium into the project to do some mapping. I needed help for some aspects, and I just asked other veteran members for help. I needed voices so I asked for Manc's help. Halfway through development Cyb dropped off the face of the earth to enjoy the real world, so I was left looking for another programmer. I was just fortunate Isle was available. There was no logic behind it, I just sought the most talented members I had gotten to know after 10 years of Doomworld (yikes, that long?)

DN: Aside from the considerable task of writing the articles, what was your role in kicking off the first Cacowards in 2004?
Scuba Steve: I loved the format of 10 years of Doom and wanted to see work continue to be recognized every year. Cyb and Ling did such a great job by having the "10 best" concept instead of ranking them 1-10 that I wanted to emulate that for every following year. Originally I tried to find a democratic body of Doomers to vote for the top 10 projects but I quickly realized that democracy sucks. Nobody came to a consensus, people didn't vote or do their part, so it was just easier to do the damned thing myself. Despite being called a Zdoom whore and an asshole, I generally tried to be as impartial as possible even finding other members to nominate my projects, if they were good enough, and to write about them. There are so many great things being done by members in this community it would be a damn shame if they weren't recognized.

I love the community atmosphere that starts every December and it was really nice to be on the anticipating end this past year. I finally get to be the jerk in the comments section giving my .02 cents. [Editor's comment: This equates to one-fifteeth of one cent. Heh]

DN: The Cacowards graphics are clever and some are funny as hell, and Mike 'Manc' Lightner was responsible for the logos for the earlier editions. Who gets credit for the logos in the latter editions?
Scuba Steve: Me. I still have to give Manc credit for the idea of the Babylon 5 parody, it's my favorite banner. They are the only thing I haven't relinquished and I'll probably draw them for a few more years.

DN: Staying on the topic of humor, you routinely display an abundance of it. An example is in your "promotion" of Action DooM. You ever considered a career in advertising?
Scuba Steve: I studied graphic design and advertising when I was younger but I wasn't as passionate as I thought I would be. Sure it pays better, is respected, less stressful and all-around less miserable than elementary teaching, but I really enjoy the work I do at school. Most of the time.

DN: With your retirement from the helm of the Cacowards, are you signaling a gradual departure from the DooM scene?
Scuba Steve: Pretty much... I haven't really been around for the last couple years anyways. Nobody "leaves" the Doom community, we just hover around posting less frequently. Besides, I haven't truly left until I post a "farewell forever!" message on the Doomworld forums.

DN: At this point feel free to go hog-wild and add anything you'd like your two adoring fans to know about.
Scuba Steve: Thanks for the great community and support all these years! Only web community I still visit after 15 years.

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