.: DooMster Unveiled: Inside the BossBrain

Spotlight on Stephen "The Ultimate Doomer" Clark: June 28, 2012

It began surreptitiously enough. In 1497 John Cabot led a voyage to discover a route from England to Asia via the North Atlantic. Then, in 1578 Queen Elizabeth I granted a patent to Humphrey Gilbert for discovery and overseas exploration. [Instead, the rascal engaged in piracy and other debauchery, thereby squandering royal favor.] Walter Raleigh planted the flag on Roanoke, Virginia in 1584, paving the way for the settlement of North America. In 1670 the Royal African Company was inaugurated, leading to such popular phrases as: "Doctor Livingstone, I presume?" Following the granting of trading rights to the East India Company by the Mughal Empire, in 1757 Robert Clive got into a pissing contest with the Nawab of Bengal in a little skirmish known as the Battle of Plassey. This laid the foundation for the acquisition of the "Jewel in the Crown". In the twenty-first century Stephen Clark turned his spyglass to distant Phobos, Deimos, and Mars. Since then he and his ravening hordes have marched relentlessly forth. And you thought the British Invasion was only happening on Earth.

DN: You made a splash into the DooM modding scene with a 32-map megawad (Fragport). In retrospect, do you think that might have been a tad ambitious?
TUD: Not really, as I never thought of releasing anything until Fragport was nearly finished. It wasn't actually my first wad either, Operation: Lightning was made the year before but unreleased for the same reason. Originally an 8-map Doom 1 episode, I converted it to Doom 2 with 3 extra maps before doing Fragport (which itself was a 6-map wad originally too - maps 01,02,18,19,07,06 - until I got more and more ideas for places to make maps out of) and deciding to release stuff...at which point I made many updates to make it more release-friendly. And in case people are wondering why I never released single maps, it's because they don't appeal to me like episodes and megawads do.

DN: Your early work includes multi-map wads such as "Fragport" and "Operation: Lightning", both for vanilla DooM. Then you graduated rather rapidly to script-heavy games such as "007: Licence to Spell DooM". What led you up that particular path?
TUD: I'm a big fan of techbases and first got the idea of doing techbases with 007-style escape-just-before-it-blows-up sequences. Then I decided to add Quake 2-esque mission objectives, as I was playing late-90's FPS'es a lot at the time. Originally I was going to use my alphabet texture with vanilla's instant-dropping/raising floor trick (and Boom as the choice of port), but the real changer came when I released Shadowcaster. In the same newstuff was Dark 7+mission pack, and it was my first exposure to ZDoom features...needless to say I soon decided to map for ZDoom as it contained all the tools I needed to realise my ideas in a much cleaner and easier fashion (including the triple 3D bridge in the big sludge tank, which I'd actually made in vanilla beforehand to see if I could) as well as a whole lot more that wouldn't have been possible otherwise.

DN: A lot of your work can be described as "unconventional". Is this something that you pursue or does it happen naturally?
TUD: Both. My number one goal in mapping was to make stuff that's original, creative, innovative etc. though I do take influences from everywhere too (and in fact it was the classic Wtrfront.wad that influenced me to start mapping, hence the tribute map in Fragport). Even with my vanilla stuff I tried to ensure it met that goal, and with each project I found more and more ways to achieve it. (initially with environments and puzzles, followed by vanilla/Boom hacks, and finally the various forms of ZDoom/GZDoom over time).

DN: Serpent: Resurrection introduced a whole new twist to HeXen game-play with the RPG element. What gave you the idea to develop the game in that direction?
TUD: Korax Mod 2.8, which (in case people don't know) was an RPG mod for Hexen/DK using a modded version of jHexen. I really enjoyed playing with that (particularly the whole idea of making a character better as you went on), and when the time came to make a Hexen mod (I planned these things out well in advance :P) I wanted to make it an RPG. I thought about making it specifically for KMod but I was torn between that and ZDoom, as Hexen support was complete and there were new features being added all the time. Eventually the addition of custom decorate weapons to the 2.0.96x community build made me go with ZDoom and script the RPG stuff myself. The longer-than-expected build time (originally I wanted to do it in 2 years) allowed so much to change (including the switch to GZDoom), and so many influences from all over the world and the internet to creep in (anyone who's played it with the author's notes on will have seen what and how much went into it). I'm really happy with the way it turned out (compared to the original 2-year form) and it's such a shame that so many people gave up in the first area because of the altogether different nature of the beast...they missed sooo much later on (not least because it's probably the longest Doom-engine pwad ever :P)

DN: You're somewhat unique in that you've modded for DooM as well as Heretic and Hexen. Do you view these games as distinct and different when approaching them as a modder?
TUD: Only in terms of setting (sci-fi for Doom, fantasy for Heretic/Hexen), as the games can cross over quite easily nowadays thanks to ZDoom. (Heretic/Hexen especially, you could practically mould those into one given the similar palette and style of resources).

DN: You've been involved in many community projects (Community Chest, CC2, CC4, multiple CTF sets). Do you find that community projects enforce a discipline that one may occasionally fail to bring to ones solo projects?
TUD: Yes in terms of the port choice and any resource restrictions etc. but anything else still goes. I was able to remain unconventional with all the community stuff I did (especially CC2 map 15) although the CTF maps ended up failing as the multiplayer community seemed to be quite fickle when it comes to those. (Not as much nowadays but multiplayer is another story, which I won't go into here :P)

DN: "The Story So Far". You know of what I speak. [Editor's Note: Take a look at the text files that accompany TUD's wads.] How much do the back stories for your games influence game development and vice versa?
TUD: Not that much for the vanilla wads, it served mainly for the text file and the intermission/ending stuff. I did build the map progression around the story and main objective though, using the Cleimos style of exits being the start area of the next map. The storylines in the ZDoom wads are set in the same world (separate ones for Doom and Heretic/Hexen ofc) and naturally play a bigger part due to the scripting. Serpent's story is far more complex because it's an RPG, and story is a big part in those games so I tried my best to make it detailed enough to fit in (with influences from fantasy books I read as a child).

DN: You are a die-hard WadAuthor user for map editing (and one of the few remaining users, I might add). What keeps you coming back to that utility?
TUD: I got used to the editor's unique style of mapping (particularly the way that sectors are drawn) and got so fast at it that I couldn't switch editors (despite WA's many annoying bugs and lack of updates), because it was just too much slower to map in others. And it had it's own script editor as well, when I moved to ZDoom (although I switched to Notepad++ during Serpent's development).

DN: Have you tried other map-editing utilities?
TUD: Yes, I used DeePsea but only for lump rearrangment (before XWE/SLumpED came around). I also used Doom Builder for Serpent's palace maps when they got too big for WA to handle. Thankfully it was just a case of the outside scenery making it too big (plus map 24's garden), so I was able to do most things in WA and just paste in at the end. However for all the changes made afterwards I had to use DB proper...needless to say it was slow and painful compared to WA :P

DN: You used to be a regular and frequent reviewer on Doomworld's the /newstuff Chronicles, going back practically ten years (making your debut with t/nC #100, I believe). Then, in 2005 you stopped abruptly. Any particular reason?
TUD: I got a job, which meant I didn't have time (given I was very active on ZDaemon at that point and was also at college twice a week). Bit of a shame, because it was a hell of a journey through so many different worlds.

DN: After a hiatus of nearly 5 years, you jumped back into reviewing with a vengeance (9 reviews in t/nC #368, followed by 9 more in t/nC #369, followed by 8 more in t/nC #370, etc.) What kept you away and what brought you back?
TUD: I fell out of the loop in 2006 after following my closest ZDaemon friends into WoW (inb4 "I thought so" :P), and this also caused the "looooong periods of off" in Serpent's build time (inb4 "I thought so" :P). When I lost my job in 2008 I rediscovered my passion for Doom and decided to get Serpent finished. I quit WoW in 2009 which freed up more time and decided to try out the new reviewing system...although I was also motivated by the threat of newstuff being killed if people didn't review more. (I already helped save it once by stepping in when AndrewB quit, so it was natural to do it a second time...as newstuff is too important to lose.)

DN: Your Profile Status on Doomworld is "(former) /newstuff Chronicler". Does this suggest you're done with reviews for t/nC, or just that you used to be a more active reviewer?
TUD: I won that title in a contest years ago, and someone added (former) on the front sometime after I quit in 2005. It's kinda true atm though, as I have little motivation to review stuff at present. Mainly because there's just nothing much that interests me atm, as everything seems to be a copy/remake/tribute etc. of something that's been copied/remade/paid tribute to etc. countless times before...there's little creativity and innovation going on in mapping atm (although this year has been a lot better than last year so far). I still love the hard stuff though (slaughter maps etc.), can't beat a bit of insane hardcore action regardless of setting :P

DN: At this point feel free to go hog-wild and add anything you'd like your two adoring fans to know about.
TUD: I have fans? Even though my stuff is unconventional, I always speak my mind and go against the grain? :P But yeah essentially my mapping was all about artistic expression, creating something new/different ranging from simple to complex and hopefully making it fun along the way. My decision to retire was long overdue really, but I didn't want to let Serpent go to waste. I did have some ideas for a planet-hopping sci-fi adventure inspired by Star Wars novels, but I decided that mapping isn't worth it anymore for a number of reasons (this hasn't stopped me from doing a big update on Serpent recently though, release coming soon hopefully).

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