.: DooMster Unveiled: Inside the BossBrain

Spotlight on wildweasel: May 11, 2012

wildweasel is probably best known for his many weapons modifications, including the Diaz and Batteries "series", and gameplay mods such as Nazis. He is also the author of many tutorials on creating weapons modifications for DooM and has, on occasion, been known to not bite the heads off newbies that ask weapons-related questions on the ZDooM forums. And speaking of the ZDooM forums, wildweasel is also affectionately referred to as the "Benevolent Overlord of the Realm". [Banned users will undoubtedly question the "benevolent" part, preferring instead to replace it with an epithet, but that's another topic for a different time.] So, without further "adieu" [heh. heh, heh.], I give you the gent himself:

DN: When did you first discover DooM, and how do you rate it against the plethora of first-person shooters that followed?

WW: I first "discovered" Doom right on day one, when Dad brought home the shareware version that he'd downloaded at work, but since I was just six years old at the time, I wasn't allowed to play it until almost 1997! That said, Doom was up against its later contemporaries as far as what would ultimately get the most of my play time, but it won out over the likes of Duke 3D, Jedi Knight, and Quake 2, because the action was fast, the enemies were predictable enough that they could be sent in huge swarms without being too overwhelming, and oh yeah, the music kicks ass.

DN: You have dabbled in modding with DeHacked, Edge, and ZDooM, finally settling on ZDooM for your more recent releases. What would you say are the strengths and weaknesses of each tool?

WW: DeHackEd was really a product of its time; I used it because there was just about nothing else available. I really don't see myself ever going back to that, ever. Too awkward and limiting. Edge had the advantage of being (relatively) user-friendly, with the (at the time) unique features for things like weapons with multiple modes of fire, reloading support built right in, all kinds of neat things you could mess with, but it also has the most hilarious glitch ever, in that if you do the wrong thing with Sounds.ddf, the game sounds get all scrambled and your pistol starts making dog barking noises. But once I got my hands on Grubber's ZDoom 2.0.96x with the experimental Decorate weapons, I just knew there was no going back - it's more flexible, there's lots of little tricks you can do with player inventory, and above all else, you don't need to type as much to get things done. =P

DN: Your forte is clearly with gameplay modifications for DooM, particularly weapons mods. What got you started with them?

WW: I could be really cliche here and say Immoral Conduct, but that wouldn't be telling the whole story. Cory Whittle's Immoral Conduct was certainly a major influence of mine, yes, but I wouldn't have even realized that weapon mods were possible without having looked at some old PC Gamer Magazine demo CD's. Sometime in mid-1997 (the cover disc with the Final Fantasy VII demo on it, I believe...odd how I remember these things), they included a DeHackEd-based mod called GunX. It's really nothing special by today's standards (it's actually vastly overpowered), but I played a lot of Doom 2 levels with that mod loaded, just because I loved the auto-shotgun. Time went on, I forgot about Doom after a couple of years, but then my brother introduced me to Immoral Conduct and I started looking at how it was put together...turned out it was a lot easier than I expected! I should really also give a shout-out to Xaser, since his brand of insanity showed me that ZDoom could do more than I had initially given it credit for. (The Chainsaw Launcher in sniper_x.wad is still one of my all-time favorite Doom weapons.)

DN: Your DECORATE skills are quite advanced. Do you have a background in computer programming languages?

WW: This might surprise you, but no, I don't! Well, maybe...well, it depends on what you'd consider a programming language, heh. I've previously messed with a handful of old DOS-based game creation systems. The usual suspects - Epic MegaGames' ZZT, Software Visions' MegaZeux, a (very) brief foray into Adventure Game Studio. I also at one point dabbled with QBASIC before I realized that I wouldn't really use it for anything. But I don't know a lick of C, or ASM, or anything like that. Can't seem to wrap my brain around them, really.

DN: You appear to have been influenced by a variety of other games. Which game, in your opinion, has the armory that best fits in with DooM-style gameplay and enemies?

WW: This is going to be kind of a fragmented answer, because really, I don't think it's possible to just take one game's arsenal and drop it into Doom and have it work well. You really have to mix and match. That said, if I had to pick an "FPS All-Stars" collection, I'd include Unreal Tournament's Impact Hammer, the DY-357 from Perfect Dark (love those Magnums), Call of Duty: World at War's trench shotgun, Turok 2's Firestorm cannon, and to top it all off, SiN's Quantum Destablizer. I'd probably throw in remote explosives, too, as long as I could stick them to monsters.

DN: Have you created modifications for other games? What makes modding for DooM so appealing to you?

WW: The thing with modding for Doom is that it takes a lot less to make something work. A more modern game would require you to have models with animations, sounds, physics, materials, a lot of stuff, just to get a simple pistol. Doom, on the other hand, can do just fine with a couple of images, a firing sound and some code. I just like the idea of making more with less (see Style Mod). I've messed with stuff for other games - there was a brief time in which I was messing with Duke 3D - but the most I've really done is sound replacement packs, because I can't be arsed to learn new programming languages, modeling, or that sort of thing. (Hell, I still haven't bothered to really learn ACS.)

DN: What advice can you offer budding gameplay modders?

WW: There's more to a good gameplay mod than taking things from Realm667 and lumping them together. I really shouldn't have to say it, but a surprising number of budding Doomers really tend to think of Realm667, AEOD, and the like as more of a "build your own mod" mix-and-match emporium than anything else. Realm667 is a great resource, yes, but that's where that should end - you can grab your stuff off there, sure, but put some effort into really making those resources "your own" - don't just take that shotgun at face value, mess with the animation, change the firing sound, paint it a new color, make it shoot something different. Experiment! You won't know what works and what doesn't unless you start goofing around and seeing what happens when you bash things together.

DN: You released your first map in 2009 (No Rockets for You, ww-nr4u.zip); it also appears to be your last. Why?

WW: I do have fun mapping, but I have a hard time really just sitting down and building something. Often I find that a certain piece of architecture or a certain feature just doesn't work the way I want it to, or I just run out of ideas for cool ways to fill up empty space (I've succumbed to the menace of crates before). I've got a small handful of "failed" experiments lying around on my hard drive, that I'll probably never actually do anything with. I find it hard to determine why exactly they've "failed" - something about each of them just didn't do enough to keep me interested as a project. I will, however, mention one mapping idea I always wanted to experiment with but never kept up the attention span for: a map consisting mainly of wood and SKINLOW textures, entitled "A Tribute to Kevin Cloud's Arm Hair.

DN: As a moderator for the ZDooM forums you have some unique challenges, balancing the need to generate discussions while keeping things civil. What are your guidelines for maintaining order?

WW: It might seem a bit pretentious or self-absorbed to liken forum moderation to actual police work, but that's really the best comparison. What a moderator does is not just blind enforcement of the rules. The rules are not the be-all, end-all authority. There are a lot of grey areas, a lot of thankless things that must be done, but really, what a moderator should do is do what they can to relate and be a part of the community wherever they can. I don't think that a moderator should ignore a user, or be a lurker. Some forums I've seen just have a mysterious team of "Supermods" that never post or take part in discussions unless they're just there to lock a thread or ban a user. That's what I try to avoid. The mods should be just regular people, talking, sharing, enjoying the discussions, and then when someone decides that they want to raise hell, the rest of the users will be more likely to trust the mod staff with their decisions.

DN: Any particuar reason you stopped maintaining DooM Armory?

WW: Lately I've actually been highly dissatisfied with the general direction that gameplay mods have been taking. I'm more likely to see yet another AEOD-clone with 100 weapons and 500 monsters, or something like RealGuns that just blindly recreates the behavior of weapons from another game without regard for the balance. The Doom Armory was originally intended to provide a place for early gameplay mods to be shared and enjoyed, since at the time, the /Newstuff Chronicles and other such sites were less keen to give fair reviews to mods without included maps (often denouncing them as overpowered rip-fests). These days, since /Newstuff is community-reviewed instead of just written by one guy, I don't feel that the Armory really needs to exist any longer for its original purpose. These days, though, I've run a new site for tutorials, that I call GunLabs. My goal is to show users, new and old alike, some simple tricks to make the weapons (the most important part of an FPS) feel excellent.

DN: There's a rumor floating around that you're developing custom weapons for a remake of a vintage ZDooM map-set. Any information on updates you'd like to share with your public (:wink:)?

WW: Nothing yet (literally, I have got basically nothing done as of now) but I figure we'll cross that bridge when we reach it, eh? No point in blind hype, right?

DN: At this point feel free to go hog-wild and add anything you'd like your two adoring fans to know about.

WW: "Two adoring fans"? Isn't that being a bit generous? =P Nah, in all seriousness, it does seem like I have something of a fanbase - I'm always shocked when I find that someone discovered and enjoyed things that I made. My mind simply cannot comprehend this "fame." Especially on my Youtube account - some of my videos have actually received more than 1,000 views, and I have no idea how I managed that - did 1,000 people really watch, or is it just five or six dedicated people refreshing the page a bunch of times? =P

I really feel the need to say one last thing about Doom itself. id Software, just what was your fascination with shotguns when you made these games? Why is the shotgun shell the single most common pickup item in the game? Do you realize how much of a balancing pain it is to make the most common ammo type power the third most powerful weapon in the game? =P

Nah, I'm done ranting. I've got some other projects that I've got on my plate at the moment, one of which might interest fans of mystery games like Ace Attorney, Hotel Dusk, or Tex Murphy...I'll bring the hype when the thing's good and ready, though, so don't get too excited (yet). I guess that's all for now.

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