Monday, October 22, 2012

chemical warfare: a wolfenstein mod i did when i was 14

after finding out that the embedded youtube videos i was using for my adventures in level design articles here are gone, i thought i should do something to make up for it.

i came up with the idea of looking back at a wolf 3d mod i did over 10 years ago called "chemical warfare". it was my first and only real significant contribution to the small wolfenstein community before i started getting into doing remixes of game music. chemical warfare is supposed to be loosely based off of wolf3d episode 4, which i have written a bit about my fascination with in this blog. and indeed, there are levels which are basically "remixes" of wolf3D levels, in episode four and elsewhere, except bigger and in the eyes of a 14 year old. the level in the above video has parts which are a fairly obvious remake of episode 4, level 2 for example. but it's also a mishmash of every other thing i liked or new idea i could come up with at the time, mixed with any new graphic i could take or any new source code change i could make without changing the feel of the game that much. the result is kind of jumble of a bunch of different ideas: some really slapdash or incomplete, some too complex, some boring, some over-the-top cartoony, some too cruel, and some surprisingly interesting.

i stuck with wolf3d editing partly as a way to understand and re-experience the emotions i felt from playing the original game (i talk about this in video part 22), and partly because it was easy to visualize - every bit of data in the level was on a single screen, represented by different colors or symbols making up a big 64x64 grid. by comparison, doom and other games that i was into were full of all kinds of incomprehensible (to me) technical details. i was too overwhelmed by all the things i had to tweak just to get something working, and too bad at visualizing what everything would finally look like in the game. with wolf3d i could exorcise the ideas for spaces i felt must get out without losing my mind in the process.

i'm about halfway through the playthrough now (with commentary). i can't attest to how interesting any of this will be to someone who's not me. but i'm at level 20 now, basically halfway through the mod (there are 42 levels). my abilities and enthusiasm increased exponentially the further i got into making this, so the best levels are mostly still to come. here's a playlist of my progress that i'm updating every other day or so:

i don't think this mod was a work of genius, or anything like that. there are many, many things wrong with it. but i'm someone who is very prone to relentless self-doubt and self-examination, and i didn't really have any friends in real life to share this with or talk about any design ideas with. i was (and still am to some extent) ashamed to reveal to other people that it was even an interest of mine. it was very personal to me, and hard to talk about at time. these things i did when i was much younger are still haunting me to some extent, and making it hard for me to move on into adulthood.

i'm hoping doing these videos will at least be some sort of snapshot of something that was a big part of my life for a little while, especially for someone who won't feel like playing through all 42 levels of a 10+ year old wolfenstein fan mod. i hope at least a few people can take something meaningful from it. if not, then at least doing it will make moving on a little bit easier for me.

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